Many Politicians Don’t ‘Get’ Twitter, But That Doesn’t Stop Them From Using It

The President holds town hall meetings on Twitter and countless political debates have been held via #hashtag chats as well – but do politicians really ‘get’ how to use Twitter?

The rewards for mastering Twitter are obvious. It allows politicians to share their thoughts and campaign promises with millions of potential voters. But the downside is a little less obvious – and should probably be considered a bit more before taking the plunge and tweeting with abandon.

If there was ever a “social media” President, Barack Obama, is it. Thanks to his 13 million followers, his online town hall meetings are extremely popular – and they make him seem very accessible to voters. As the President of the U.S., he’s one of the first politicians that come to mind, but there are many others on Twitter; some with significant followings. We thought we’d offer these candidates some points to keep in mind as they address the tweeple, in case they haven’t been paying close attention to their counterparts’ slipups:

Get to the point. Posting superlong tweets that require you to number past two is a no-no. Really try to stick to 140 characters? Less than that if you want to be retweeted.

Direct messages are private, but it’s easy to slip-up when posting via smartphone and send a tweet instead. And regardless of how “private” your direct message is, anything can become a screenshot and shared widely. The takeaway? If you don’t want everyone to know it, don’t send it!

Twitter fights never end well – even if you’re “right.” You’ll eventually say something you’ll regret (like OMGPOP’s CEO recently did) and even if you don’t all anyone will remember is that you fought over something petty and that is NOT a good impression to make!

If you get trolled by someone on Twitter, ignore them. Feeding trolls is never advisable – they’re like the movie gremlins and will multiply if you do!

And finally, the most important piece of wisdom for politicians wanting to tweet: Letting staffers tweet for you is good time management (I’m betting most politicians’ accounts have staffers ghost-tweeting regardless), but it is NOT something to just assign to a low-level staffer without some pretty intense training. This seems to be overlooked more often than not.

The most recent faux pas demonstrating this last point was a tweet asking “If ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own? #wrp family pack = insincere.” Well, um, it turns out the “insincere” candidate has been struggling with infertility for the past six years. Ouch. Actually, this is a good tip for staffers tasked with tweeting as well. If you want to remain employed, best to keep those smart little digs to yourself (unless specifically approved ahead of time, of course – we know politics is a tough game).

If you’re trying to find some folks to follow, a good place to start is the Tweeting Politicians account. It offers “half-hour updates from all politicians on Twitter.” Do you have other sites or politicians that you follow on Twitter – and how well do they use the platform?

(Image of 3D man giving speech from Shutterstock)