As a web designer I write a lot of code, but I also enjoy writing and giving advice about issues that really make my blood boil. So here’s my rant (and advice) on how I believe elected officials and aspiring politicians should behave and engage on Twitter.
It all started Sunday morning while reading tweets by people I follow and noticing what seemed to be another heated exchange of words going on between a few different people, mainly an elected official and an aspiring politician.
As I dug in and started reading the conversation, what I discovered was sniping between two old friends that are now butting heads because of politics. I’m not saying that there aren’t some real issues that need to be dealt with in this conversation – some maybe even need to be reported to the local police. But what I am saying is that the large majority of voters don’t want to hear or see politicians and those seeking office bickering back and forth on non-policy related issues.
Keep the personal fights to yourselves and let’s talk about policy with real substance. Issues that will grow the municipalities, regions, provinces and country we all love and want to improve.
So now that I’m done my rant, here’s my top 10 do’s and don’ts for elected officials and aspiring politicians.
1) DO engage with followers on Twitter, share policy, ideas and have conversations.
2) DON’T just release a policy idea on Twitter, point your followers to a website and think you’ve done your job – you haven’t, you need to discuss it with people. Twitter is about having conversations. Those conversations include you, as the politician or candidate.
3) DO share personal aspects of your life – tell short stories, talk about your favourite sports team, your hobbies, share pictures and video. Connecting with people on a personal level that they can relate to will help you get elected or re-elected. Letting people know you’re a real person and not just a policy wonk will go a long way.
4) DON’T get personal. If you have an issue with someone online, be the bigger person and walk away, don’t reply and take the necessary action offline if the situation warrant that type of action. Trust me you’ll only look bad to the large majority of voters in the end by bickering back and forth.
5) DO engage with people who have questions, concerns, and comments. Don’t be scared of voters, back up your beliefs, policies and take a stand online – but be polite about it and state the facts.
6) DON’T feed into Twitter trolls – the folks online that will continually chirp at you, call you names and make statements that are outrageous. They’ll most likely have no face attached to their handle because trolls are just faceless cowards.
7) DO have office staffers/campaign team tweet on your handle. Live tweeting for you while you’re speaking or about an upcoming announcement are great examples. Make sure that your followers know it’s not you by having your staff/team sign their tweet with their initials (for example: ^MH).
8) DON’T have your staff tweet about your personal life. People will eventually catch on that it’s not you and you’ll look disingenuous and fake. Politics is a tough game on it’s own; you don’t want people thinking you’re a phony.
9) DO be on Twitter to have fun.
10) DON’T be on Twitter just because everyone else is there and you feel like you have to be in this space.
Although my top ten list may seem very simple to those who use Twitter regularly, as a professional who has worked with, consulted for and watched many politicians and candidates online, these simple rules are often not followed.
Of course, I fully understand that social networking will never replace a good handshake or a face-to-face conversation about policy and ideas, but Twitter is a tool that will help a politician/candidate reach a larger group of people and this is about using this social media tool properly.
So engage on Twitter, share policy and ideas, be personable – just don’t make it too personal.