Over the past two years, Twitter has bridged a long-standing communication gap between politicians and their constituents. As the 2012 U.S. Presidential election campaign trail gets underway, this connection has been utilized to its greatest extent ever, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
This new age has enabled tech-savvy supporters to seemingly follow every move of their favorite candidates up to the election. President Barack Obama is no stranger to the hype-fueling process, tweeting a link to his campaign video on April 4. The tweet also popularized the hashtag #Obama2012, which is expected to spearhead the social media campaign.
The candidates' “tweets” generally spread two kinds of information: details of their personal schedules relating to their public persona, or news relating to their platform. An example of the former came in an Obama tweet on June 7 stating that he was having a live press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (The conference was syndicated on wh.gov). The same day, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty unveiled his economic plan on Twitter via a link to excerpts of his speech at the University of Chicago. In a nutshell, this is the easiest time ever to understand political positions.
Republican candidates Newt Gingrich and Gary Johnson have actually gone as far as to officially announce their plans to run in the 2012 election on Twitter. According to blog.govtwit.com, Mitt Romney technically was the first presidential candidate ever to publicize his candidacy via Twitter, because he announced he was creating an exploratory committee, which automatically makes him a candidate.
Don’t stop what you’re doing, just follow
Twitter users now have been given a more convenient way to follow politicians and others with the addition of the new follow button, which can be added by third-party users to their own personal website to attract instant followers. Users can click the follow button of whoever they research without having to leave the website they’re currently browsing. Greg Finn at searchengineland.com has written a great synopsis of the new follow button’s functionality.
So far, the main presidential candidates haven’t added the new follow button, but they will likely be heavily utilized (and advertised) on politicians’ personal websites.
How more people are “on the inside”
Twitter’s structure has revolutionized the potential for an “average Joe” to make comments and even facilitate discussion with politicians in ways e-mail couldn’t. You have the freedom of letting your lawmakers know exactly how you feel about the decisions they make in office in 140 characters or less.
Want a fun fact? In a 24-hour span, former GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was mentioned over 22,000 times by followers after her erroneous statements regarding Paul Revere. For comparison’s sake, the next highest-mentioned Republican candidate, Rick Santorum, had 2,800 in that same time span.
Leveling the playing field
You may think this is just some ridiculous avenue to poke fun at a potential presidential candidate, but in reality the playing field between Washington higher-ups and their voters has been significantly leveled by tweeters. Any pedestal politicians once may have stood on has been knocked down a rung, and it’s starting to show. A perfect example of this is the embarrassing case of New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who ultimately his Twitter habits get the best of him.
Long gone are the days when a letter or phone call was necessary, but unlikely, to get a politician’s attention. With social media at the fingertips of an entire generation of Americans, politicians can’t expect to get away with nearly as much as they could in the past. It’s a sacrifice most public figures will need to make if they want to reap the benefits of the Twitter generation.