Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some New Ideas on Social Networking in Politics (Part 1)

Summary: Twitter on the trail again - how to best use Tweets while campaigning.

Lately we’ve been receiving quite a few emails about the growing relevance of New Media in politics - specifically social networking. Some of these ideas, and the debates they create, are quite interesting.

First there is the ever-continuing discussion on the use of Twitter, which we have been covering rigorously over the past several months. In a recent Winning Campaigns article , Christopher Massicotte of NGP Software (an online political finance tool) analyzes the increasing importance of a Twitter presence.

For the most part, Massicotte’s analysis falls along the lines of what we’ve been saying for a while (see our post “How is New Media Changing Politics?” from the 21st Century Campaigning series).

These were his “Do’s and Don’ts” of political Tweeting:


1) Follow as many people as you can on Twitter that are relevant to your campaign and use Twitter Search often;

2) Be interesting and original in what you are tweeting;

3) Talk to people about THEIR interests – by doing that, you are showing that you are human;

4) Make sure that it is the candidate who is tweeting. The campaign can have a Twitter account as well – but people are turned off when they realize that the tweeting has been “staffed out;”

5) Put a link to your Twitter site on your campaign website as you would with all of the other social networking tools that you are using.


1) Don’t Tweet about anything that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times. There are a number of news reports of “Tweets gone bad,” please don’t let this happen to you;

2) Don’t lock your tweets. Twitter allows you to lock your tweets so that people have to request to follow you and no one outside your group of followers can see what you are saying. You are not going to bring in new people this way;

3) Don’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting – I stop following people who fill up my Twitter feed with irrelevant and uninteresting things that have no appeal to me;

4) Don’t follow too many people – your feed will get too congested and you might miss something important – you don’t have to read every tweet. Most politicians do not follow anybody, but read their @replies;

5) Don’t fool yourself into thinking Twitter is the next greatest way to raise money. Twitter is a great tool for attracting new supporters and gets your message out virally, but putting links to your contribution page right in a tweet is the fastest way for people to stop following you.

For those of you have been following our input about Twitter, we agree with all but one of those ten points: the Fourth “Do”: “Make sure that it is the candidate who is tweeting.”

As many campaign workers will readily agree, many politicians have some trouble staying on message - especially new politicians. If a campaign follows the Fourth “Do” then there seems to be an increasing chance that the campaign won’t follow the First “Don’t”.

That being said, he has a point. Followers don’t like it when they can tell a Twitter account has been “staffed out.” But there may be a compromise position on this issue: if a campaign manager, consultant, etc. decides the candidate is responsible enough with message to use Twitter themselves (or not responsible enough, for that matter) they can make an individual decision for that specific campaign accordingly. After all, every campaign is unique.

Tomorrow we will analyze another interesting idea that has come up lately: will social networking kill email? And if so, what will be the implications for political campaigns? Come back to find out!

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