Have you heard of Twitter? Do you use it? How do you use it? KSL did a story this week on how the GOP is winning the political war on Twitter and asked on-line users to vote on which politicians they followed most – national, local, state, city or “I don’t follow politicians”. Fewer than 60 people voted, but the winner was “I don’t follow politicians”, then “What’s Twitter?”
A much longer article in Politico pointed out that David All, a Republican Internet strategist, was recently hired to be the official tweeter for none other than Congressman Joe Wilson. (Wait! You mean you can make money tweeting for politicians?! Who knew….) All pointed out 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.”
In Utah, Rep Chaffetz has over 7000 followers and tweets often as @jasoninthehouse. Rep Matheson has 370+ followers and tweets sporadically as @RepJimMatheson. Sen Hatch tweets frequently as @OrrinHatch and has 6000 followers. I couldn’t find either Rep Bishop or Senator Bennett on Twitter, although there is an “unofficial re-election” Twitter feed with 98 followers for Senator Bennett.
Very few state politicians are effective at using Twitter – most of them aren’t even on it and likely fall into the category of “What’s Twitter”. Some exceptions: @MarkShurtleff, the Attorney General, with over 8000 followers, and @governorherbert, our new governor.
So what IS Twitter – and what’s the point? Often defined as “mini-texting” or “mini-blogging“, it is the sending of short messages – 140 characters or less – and is a quick, almost instantaneous, way to get your short, pointed message out. If you only want to keep in touch with family and friends – it is not usually the top choice and can definitely be overdone. (No one cares for updates every 15 minutes, let me tell you.) Most people wanting to communicate just with family will use Facebook, blogs, email, phone calls or good old fashioned face-to-face contact (all essential modes of communication for politicians, by the way). For those involved in politics, however, it can be a great tool – and believe me – it’s a tool that won’t be ignored by competition come the next election cycle – just ask @CherilynEagar how effective it can be.
So without further ado – here are Holly on the Hill’s Top Ten Twitter Tips for politicians:
* Start using it. Really. Just do it. It doesn’t have to take much time at all – Rep Chaffetz recently said he spends about 15 minutes a day using Twitter AND Facebook.
* Use it regularly – don’t send out one Tweet and never go back to it. Update several times a week, at least.
* Don’t overdo it, either. if you are tweeting 20 times a day, that’s way too much information and you’ll lose people.
* Engage your followers – ask questions, post pictures and tweet what you are passionate about
* Learn to use hash tags – a hash tag is the pound sign followed by one word (no spaces) that can easily be pulled up by the Twitter search engine. For example, if you put #utpol every time you tweet something related to Utah politics, you will be make it likely that more than just your “followers” will see you. But don’t over-do it.
* Re-tweet interesting information, quotes, articles, etc – ie: RT@HollyontheHill.
* Use “Follow Friday” to let your followers know who YOU follow – and please follow real people in your very own district- not just your legislative colleagues.
* Be real – if people wanted to only read your press releases or find out your schedule, they’d look elsewhere. One of the biggest complaints about politicians tweeting is that they are only sending out boring PR stuff. Again, be real – let people get to know you.
* Use your phone. Set up your phone to send your tweets and receive the tweets from those you choose to follow closely. It’s easy, I promise.
* Use Twitter apps like TweetDeck (a way to streamline notifications and tweets), Twitpic (for posting pictures), Twhirl – or one of dozens of others – it will make things easier for you.
Finally – a bonus tip – beware of mis-tweets, like oh, I don’t know…..announcing a run for Senate inadvertently maybe….anything you tweet can and likely will live on forever out in Twitter-land.
So jump on in – the water’s fine. And don’t forget to follow me.