Twitter is anything, it's a platform for communication. Tweet and reply. Follow and be followed. As Robert Scoble recently pointed out, "the secret to Twitter is how many people you are listening to, not how many people are listening to you." If that's the case, then someone needs to tell Hillary, who is using Twitter as a platform for being heard and following 0 people. Meanwhile, her competitor, Obama, follows 25,588. And John McCain? He doesn't appear to be using Twitter at all.If
The Candidates on Twitter
Even though we all know that the social media being wrangled by today's political candidates is really in the hands of staffers, we still appreciate it when it's done properly - giving us the illusion the candidates are listening and they really do care.
In Barak Obama's camp, whose tech-savvy we've pointed out in the past, seems to get Twitter. Besides just tweeting his news, it's clear he's using some sort of auto-follow script to follow those who follow him.
Getting Followed Feels Good
You're Doing it Wrong!
As Charles McKeever says on OpenSourceMarketer:
"Even though an automated script would not seem very sincere, there is a powerful psychological trigger going on here. By following you Obamas campaign is trying to send the message that they understand how things work, they want to communicate, and they want to hear from you."
By not following any users on Twitter, Hillary's page seems stark and empty - no faces and icons filling up the sidebar. McKeever notes that her lack of participation also highlights the words at the bottom of the Twitter sidebar more clearly on her page: "block hillaryclinton." These words, thanks to the lack of icons, appear above the fold.
Meanwhile, Obama's camp has gotten into the spirit of Twitter. Maybe it's no more genuine than any other politician, but at least it's a good show. His page is brighter, branded with his logo, and filled with the faces of those he follows.
Comparing the Twitter pages of the candidates
John McCain, on the other hand, appears to be ignoring Twitter completely. A search of his site reveals no results for any mention of Twitter and a search on Twitter reveals no official John McCain user.
Where's the real McCain?
The Exploitation of Social Media
Unfortunately, after the campaigning ends, it often becomes apparent that the illusion that candidates were listening, really was an illusion after all. Take John Edwards's use of Twitter, for example. When his campaign ended, so did his tweets. No so long, no goodbye, no account deletion. Yet he still has 4,573 followers.
The abandoned page
For the citizens of the web, the feeling is that of having been exploited. On his blog, Stowe Boyd writes:
So, you opt to try to exploit the edglings by signing up to Twitter, and writing a blog, and all that newfangled web stuff, trying to mine the potential there with ersatz involvement and cheesy, inauthentic participation: cramming old one:many messaging into a conversationally rich environment. Then, you drop out. And proof [sic] that it is totally bogus, you just stop...Proof of old politics wolf in new politics sheep's clothing: they assume the ways of the new social web revolution as a means to come into contact with us, but when they lose (and maybe when they win, as well?) they drop the pretense of involvement, and go back to whatever they really believe in. Which is clearly not this new emerging whatever-the-hell-it-is on the web.
That's a bit dramatic, notes Craig Stoltz on Web 2.Oh...Really?, especially considering Edwards' wife illness, but nevertheless, it raises a good question - will the tweeting end when the campaign does? Win or lose?
Should Social Media Be Important to the Candidates?
Of course it should. The online crowd may be a niche audience when it comes to the nation as a whole, but it's a crowd that is easy to find, access, and connect with. We even provide the tools to do so. We're practically begging to be won over. Just show a little savvy in the ways of tech, and we're yours.
However, we would like to see candidates who didn't rely on faceless interns to update their various accounts so much. Why not have a social media community leader/evangelist in charge of the political brand instead? We know that it's not really Hillary at the keyboard anyway, so maybe it's time to drop the illusion.
But why would an evangelist be a good thing? As Mario Sundar notes on Marketing Nirvana,
"The same reasons it helps a company have a community evangelist. Two main reasons. 1. It humanizes the political brand - it helps having a turn-to person when youd like to offer feedback 2. Crisis Management. Like in Edwards case, given all the brouhaha over his absence these days, itd be nice to have someone from their campaign (it could be an intern) who actually responds authentically to social media mentions."
An evangelist would also be real. Unlike an intern pretending to be the candidate, the brand would be represented by an actual person. One who knew not to upload inflammatory videos to YouTube. One who knew what Twitter tools to use to send thank you notes to followers. One who knew the power of the blogs. And, maybe one who would continue to tweet, perhaps even for free, after the votes are counted and the campaign comes to an end.