Get Politically Connected through Twitter

Twitter has revolutionized politics. Whereas before it used to take hours or even days for a politician to ruin himself, now public service careers can be cut short in a matter of seconds.

Seriously, that seems to be what many people think about using Twitter. They equate tweeting with potential PR disaster.

Trust me, with Twitter, ruining your career is entirely optional. Bad things usually only happen on Twitter when twit meets tweet. Twitter is not to blame when things go awry. The culprit is always user error–namely a user who doesn’t know when to stay off Twitter when he/she is being stupid. In a worst-case scenario, if you make a mistake, you can always claim you were hacked. No one will believe you, but you still might get work as a White House corespondent.

The truth is, Twitter is a very useful communication tool for all kinds of political speech, and you need it in your communication arsenal. Of all the social networks, Twitter is the most used among the politically inclined. Conservatives have been playing catch-up on this network, but lately they have been finding their voice on the medium. Instead of thinking of Twitter in negative terms, why not join the movement and think about what it can do to amplify your voice online? Many have benefited from using Twitter; now it’s your turn!

Twitter savvy and how!

Let’s get started! Sign up for Twitter. Just go to https://twitter.com/signup, and fill out the form. You can always change your Twitter handle (that’s the @name you see everywhere), but pick a name that will last your whole political career. Beware of picking names like @OSUgrad92 or @OUfan68. These names, while showing support for your team, won’t come up readily in a search for your name.

If your real name is available for use on Twitter, register it. It is better to get your own name. Even if you don’t plan to use it, grab it, because an opponent might squat on it so you can’t get it. (And you don’t want your anyone squatting on your name!)

Fill out all 160 characters of your Twitter bio and add your blog or website’s URL. Twitter bio information will appear in search engines when people search for your name. Google plays well with Twitter. Setting up Twitter correctly is a simple search engine optimization tactic that will get your website a little search engine street-cred. Make your bio count, not just for Twitter, but also Google, etc.

Use a picture for your icon. Help people associate your face with your name. I mean, why spend that much on your hair if you aren’t going to show it off?

Protect yourself from pocket tweeting

The people who send embarrassing tweets often have connected their Twitter to their cell phone via SMS. Once you have an account set up, if you make active your phone number, you can send a text to 404-04, and it will post on your Twitter account. It’s handy, but try not to start the habit of sending Tweets using SMS. Use the available smart phone application for tweeting from your mobile phone instead. When you use the Twitter application, you run less risk of sending a private message or other text as an accidental Tweet.

10 Ways to Get Connected Politically Through Twitter

  1. Be careful what you Tweet. This should go without saying, but be careful when you use any social media. Think before you post. Twitter is forever!
  2. Follow people who follow. People whom you follow, often will follow you back. People who follow many others, will be more likely follow you. To find more people, look at the Twitter followers of accounts of local businesses and other community leaders for people in your area who use Twitter.
  3. Follow local people. The best practice is to follow real people who are potential voters. Look at the accounts of people before you follow them. Are they real people and not spam accounts? Are they people who seem to be in your district?
  4. Vet people before you follow them. There is no race to have the most followers. You want to have targeted followers. Don’t follow back everyone who follows you. Ask yourself, “Will they vote?” Follow Fox News or that big name politician if you must, but they probably won’t be retweeting your tweets or voting for you. When you follow these sources, follow the ones who give you quality things to retweet or talk about to your local followers.
  5. Learn the lingo. Twitter has its own jargon that’s easy to figure out. RT means retweet. That’s when you or someone else repeats a meaningful Tweet. Yes, they happen! MT means modified tweet, or edited tweet. HT means “Hat Tip” an acknowledgment for the source of a message in a tweet. You get the idea? On Twitter citing your sources is important. It’s like a 140 character college term paper.
  6. Use #hastags. Hastags are key words preceded by the # sign. They are like instant search tools. When you click on a #hashtag on Twitter, you can see other tweets that use the same tag. Try it out by searching on Twitter for #OKGOP or #OKTCOT (Stands for, “Oklahoma Top Conservatives on Twitter”). Also, as an experiment, next time there’s a game, follow all the NBA action with #Thunderup. Keep an eye out for the most popular #hashtags and use them when appropriate.
  7. Use less than 140 characters so you can be retweeted. Being cited by others is a big deal on Twitter. So, even though you are allowed an exhaustive 140 characters to say what you think, try to use less than 120. That way, when people quote you or RT your posts, there is room left for their @name and perhaps enough characters for a word or two from the person repeating you.
  8. Use a link-shortening tool that allows you to track metrics. When you post a link on your account, Twitter will shorten it. However, if you use a service such as Hootsuite.com, for example, you can see how many clicks your links are getting.
  9. Cross-promote on all your social media. Whatever you are doing on Facebook, your blog, YouTube, Foursquare, etc can be also be shared on Twitter. Try to tweet 2-3 times per day to let people know what you are doing, thinking, and talking about.
  10. Be strategic. Be aware if your opponent has an account in his name. Monitor his or her tweets regularly. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Note: A future post in this series will cover Twitter advertising.

Chris Forbes (ChrisForbes.org) is a frustrated ex-comic, Indie Film Marketer, & Co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits.” As an Oklahoma-based social media strategist he has been leading political social media campaigns since 2009. Follow @cforbesoklahoma on Twitter.