Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Republicans Dominating on Twitter?

Summary: What the GOP lacks in Twitter message discipline, they make up for in followers.

The traditional stereotype of the GOP in Congress is a group of old conservative white men who probably aren’t too savvy with the modern world.

Except the Congressional Research Service recently released a study which finds Republicans in Congress are almost twice as likely to use Twitter, and they tweet almost four times as often.

From the Politico article:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had the most subscribers to his tweets, but two Democrats — Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — did make it into the top five list maintained by the website TweetCongress, which describes itself as “a grass-roots effort to get our men and women in Congress to open up and have a real conversation with us.” It lists Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the top five, as well, and puts the current total of congressional Twitterers to 190. The CRS report, meanwhile, found that 4,186 people subscribed to — or followed — the median Republican senator, versus 2,874 for the median Democratic senator. The median Republican congressman had 1,615 followers, compared with 969 for Democratic colleagues.

Still,’s Micah Sifry tells Politico “few members of Congress are really using Twitter very effectively. Most aren’t engaging a community all that well and, instead, use the tool primarily to broadcast a PR-style message that isn’t likely to get spread around much by others.”

Sound familiar?

Still, GOP consultants love Twitter anyway:

David All, a Republican Internet strategist hired recently to help bolster [Rep. Joe] Wilson’s presence online — including on Twitter — said the site “is not the end-all, be-all, but it has proven to be a good tool to help public officials, trade associations, major brands and media achieve their online goals.”

He asserted that “every effective communications professional or major association needs a real strategy for utilizing Twitter at all times — especially during key events where real-time response is crucial.”

But that still isn’t stopping Republicans from posting stupid tweets, which is something we’ve covered a lot here before. The article relays some new ones:

A handful of House members were called out for tweeting during President Barack Obama’s February address to a joint session of Congress, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), whose account tweeted, “Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren’t going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour.” That was followed quickly by another message reading: “Disregard that last tweet from a staffer.”

In July, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a member of the Navy Reserve, was criticized for disclosing his location while on duty, which risked running afoul of military rules.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) raised eyebrows when he used his very active Twitter account to compare the Iranian protests over their disputed election to House Republicans’ efforts to “expose repression” such as a House Democratic “clampdown” on Republican amendments.

It’s been interesting to watch the growth of Twitter in the past year in the political world, especially among Republicans, because it brings a lot of implications with it. Unfortunately for the na├»ve GOP consultant quoted earlier, few of those implications are positive unless you have the sort of message discipline that Republicans clearly don’t have right now.

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