While we are hearing more and more stories of politicians who are using Twitter to effectively engage with voters as part of a social media campaign, we can’t forget about those who still misunderstand the microblogging service. Here are five ways that politicians have failed on Twitter in the past, and an analysis of what went wrong.
John McCain Just LOOOOVES Snooki
This one comes out of left field, and really makes you wonder who’s tweeting on behalf of John McCain.
NYDailyNews reports that this past summer, John McCain hopped on the Snooki bandwagon by discussing his policy on taxing tanning beds with the Jersey Shore star on Twitter. His tweet, in response to Snooki’s assertion that he would never tax tanning beds because he is so pale, reads:
“u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”
And they kicked it up a notch even more recently: McCain tweeted “Happy birthday @Sn00ki” on the starlet’s birthday last month.
Analysis: McCain’s popularity might be waning in the face of his staunch opposition to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (among other things), but aligning himself with a pop princess known more for her big hair than big political thinking really isn’t the best way to be using Twitter.
Calling for Someone’s Death Should be Avoided
Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? Too bad UK councilor Gareth Compton didn’t heed it before he made his now infamous tweet.
Compton was arrested after calling for the stoning of a journalist:
“Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.”
We’re sure Compton thought he was being funny, but the courts weren’t laughing. After his arrest, he faced a number of political repercussions, including being stripped of his membership in the Conservative party.
Analysis: Free speech is one thing, but using Twitter to call for the stoning of a journalist? We don’t think anyone should be using Twitter for this (whether a tasteless attempt at humor or not), especially someone in politics.
Understand Before you Condemn
It’s one thing to refuse to set up a Twitter account, but another thing completely to dismiss Twitter as just a “what-I-had-for-lunch” outlet. We heard that argument in 2008, thanks, and it doesn’t hold water.
The Courier reports that the newly elected government speaker in Australia has condemned politicians’ uses of Twitter, saying that it’s a waste of time and that they don’t concentrate on the debates if they’re updating their statuses.
Analysis: Poor, poor misguided politician. As with any tool, Twitter can be misused – but most politicians have clued in to the fact that it’s a great way to connect with voters by now, not just a machine for self-congratulatory remarks about getting a good seat in a coffee shop. And while you could get distracted from political debates while tweeting in parliament, we think the 30 seconds it takes to tweet can bet squeezed in somewhere in the 8+ hour day.
Get Your Facts Right
When she’s not making up words, she’s on Twitter (and sometimes, she’s doing both at the same time). Sarah Palin is notorious for her use of Twitter to promote fellow Republicans and bash Democrats.
However, she might want to get a fact-checker for her Twitter account.
Perez Hilton reports that Palin got the facts wrong when she tweeted her support for a Republican senate candidate from Pennsylvania… only she thought he was from West Virginia. Oops!
Analysis: Get a fact checker! If you’re unsure of something, wait to tweet until you get all your facts straight. Tweets are forever, if someone grabs a screenshot before you take them down, and sloppy tweeting can lead to a lack of trust on election day.
Protect your Passwords
Politicians and lay-people listen up: protect your Twitter (and every other) password with your life! Otherwise, something like this could happen to you:
An Indonesian politician’s Twitter account issued a tsunami warning this past November, that turned out to be the work of a nefarious hacker. The politician in question was the presidential adviser for disaster management, which made the warning all the more believable to the public before it was pulled down.
The politician eventually had to switch over to a new Twitter account, after taking responsibility for losing control of his original one.
Analysis: High-profile accounts like celebrities and politicians are targeted by hackers – so keep your passwords under lock and key.