Twitter an indispensable political tool

2013-09-13 22:39

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Presidents and prime ministers, South American strongmen and nearly the entire US Congress have used Twitter to press their political platforms. But has the blue bird helped - or muddled - their message?

In the seven years since its creation, the micro-blogging service, which has announced it is planning an initial public stock offering, has become the indispensable tool for lawmakers and leaders as they seek to shape their country's conversation.

Through it, they hope to release their message on their own terms - often unfiltered.

When US President Barack Obama, the politician with a record 36.5 million followers, decided to end the suspense and declare re-election victory last November over rival Mitt Romney, he bypassed traditional media and tweeted his "four more years" claim to the world.

It became the most re-tweeted post ever.

Lawmakers of all stripes are embracing the digital technology, sending the news cycle into hyperdrive as they tweet out their policy positions, reactions to breaking news and events, and "selfie" photos with constituents - all in 140 characters or less.

Twitter has become the crucial real-time media service for legislative drives and political campaigns, coming into its own during the 2012 White House race.

Politicians "really don't have a choice, they have to engage on Twitter," said Marcus Messner, a professor at the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Staying off Twitter means staying out of some of the most engaging political discourse with supporters, campaign strategists, other politicians and journalists.

Personality

Purely posting press releases will probably get you nowhere, Messner stressed.

"It's important for politicians... to show a little bit of their personality."

That is why Senator Chuck Grassley tweeting a photo of the "biggest pig" at the Iowa State Fair last month was the right move. "It shows a human side," Messner said.

But the Twittersphere has rapidly dug some deep political trenches from which Democrats and Republicans are waging a fierce digital war.

US lawmakers are increasingly using Twitter to position themselves on issues like the debate over Syria, in which many expressed scepticism about Obama's plan for military strikes over the regime's apparent use of chemical weapons.

But Republican media consultant Rick Wilson said a growing few - notably freshman Senator Ted Cruz - are expertly framing their political image through Twitter.

Cruz's stream of pin-pointed tweets is positioning him "as one of the leaders of the new conservative bloc in the Senate," Wilson told AFP.

Cruz, widely seen as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is targeting his tweets at "highly active, highly motivated, highly engaged conservative activists and voters all over the country," Wilson said.

The phenomenon is growing internationally.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul is one of the most followed politicians in the world with 3.6 million, while the country's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has 3.1 million followers.

Five hours into 140 characters

Both were eclipsed by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who died in March with more than 4.1 million Twitter followers.

Twitter was probably a challenge for the verbose Chavez, who often rambled on for five hours during official speeches, to compress his messages into 140 characters.

In Europe, some leaders have been slow to embrace the service. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has no Twitter account, leaving the job to her spokesperson.

And French President Francois Hollande stopped tweeting in 2012, transferring the role to the Elysee palace.

Twitter's rapid US rise has been adeptly embraced by lawmakers like Senator John McCain, who has the most followers of anyone in Congress. But it also led him into a stumble.

Early this year McCain drew fire when he compared then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a monkey that Iran had launched into space.

No lawmaker has crashed and burned as spectacularly as congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned after tweeting photos of his crotch.

The widely ridiculed flame-out became a cautionary tale for politicians eager to show their personal side on Twitter.

Britain's David Cameron was among those who braced against what he called the "instantness" and early use of Twitter as a political tool, famously telling a radio show in 2009, when he was leader of the opposition, that "too many twits might make a twat."

But the now prime minister, who has since joined Twitter and has 446 000 followers, acknowledged the benefit in boiling down a political message into a short sentence or two.

"You have to work at communicating something complicated in a simple way, otherwise you're not going to take people with you," Cameron said.

Read more on:    twitter  |  politics  |  social networks
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

DSTV Mobile iDrifta

The iDrifta is a plug and play mobile DVB-H receiver...

From R445.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.