Twitter epitomizes all that is right in America: transparency, dialogue, and an open forum for citizen debate. God bless social media.
— Gov. Buddy Roemer (@BuddyRoemer) October 11, 2011
With Twitter spurring political upheavals across the globe, it’s become clear this new medium for mass social communication will fundamentally alter the political process in the United States. Yet most political campaigns, while spending millions on television and online advertising, have failed to fully leverage the platform. Twitter is the single most powerful tool in this era of new media campaigns.
Political journalists, strategists, candidates, and junkies all flock to Twitter, it is their platform of choice. These users comprise a politically hyper-engaged audience who mold the conversation nationally. While not everyone is hooked into their Timelines, yet, all the key influencers are present and active. They come for the breaking news stories and real-time updates, by the second. Politics changes rapidly, news churns out constantly, and the only thing faster is Twitter. Any candidate that doesn’t participate will be left behind. You can’t wait until the next morning anymore.
Most people use Facebook for their social life and Twitter for their political life. No other platform has become such an obsession of the politically engaged, and the media most of all. How many times have you seen tweets on cable news? Twitter has become an easy and essential source of content for bloggers and newspapers moving to embrace their digital presence. We are witnessing a Twitter-fueled news cycle, the lifeblood of campaigns.
Twitter also provides an avenue around the media, who are not always every campaign’s best friends. While influencing the mainstream conversation is important, Twitter provides a direct channel to supporters and constituents. Tweeting personally adds a human touch and accessibility to otherwise distant candidates. This sense of connectedness to the campaign is essential to raising funds. Done correctly, followers don’t just translate to donations, they can also become effective fundraisers.
Campaigns can advertise major events and appearances. Strategists can test-drive themes and messaging before using it before a wider audience. Metrics can provide leading indicators of polling. Townhalls can bring an underdog out from obscurity. The list of benefits goes on and on.
Understanding the potential of Twitter is essential to investing the resources to leverage this evolving and transformative platform. Campaigns make a fatal mistake when they treat Twitter like any other social media status-updates or as merely another tool for mass broadcasting. Stay tuned for the next 99 rules, which will demonstrate the power of 140 characters.