Twitter 101 For Candidates & Campaigns
With its straightforward functionality and intuitive interface, Twitter seems simple and easy to use on the surface. But using Twitter for campaigns comes with its own set of challenges, such as figuring out how to craft an effective message with a very limited character count, and deciding when and how to use it appropriately.
Despite the fact that Donald Trump’s current Twitter use makes it seem like a less than professional network and credible place to get your information, Twitter can and should be used by political candidates to engage with supporters. If you use Twitter effectively you can strategically connect with your supporters and build up your public profile. Plus, it’s a great way to engage with the people who use it most — typically reporters and media professionals you want seeing your message.
Here are some tips for how to get the most out of Twitter for your campaign:
People are increasingly getting their news from Twitter — especially as breaking news is becoming more and more common — which makes it a great way to engage with the public. Twitter has around 1 billion total users with 255 million monthly active users. People also spend an average of 170 minutes per month on Twitter. Because of this, Twitter is a very quick way to communicate with large groups of people.
Twitter can also help you improve how people perceive your authenticity and credibility online. A well-kept Twitter account will be much more engaging and will attract a larger, more dedicated audience. Plus, it’s a very casual and public space, so it’s more likely that people will engage with you on Twitter than other social media, if you make sure to keep it up.
How to use Twitter as a candidate:
First, we need to cover how Twitter should be used. Twitter is used as a real-time news source, meaning that it’s typically used to communicate and react to news as it happens because it updates automatically as people post. Twitter is also an amplification tool to help spread an already existing message, used in conjugation with other media. And because a Twitter presence encourages engagement online, it’s a great method of gaining feedback and insight from your followers as well as building credibility.
What NOT to do:
First and foremost, Twitter is not a communications plan and (despite the information we currently get online from the President)it should not be used as such. Twitter should be used in conjunction with other forms of communication — never alone.
Another thing to always keep in mind is that Twitter is not Facebook and should not be treated as such. Twitter and Facebook are completely different platforms and about the only thing that they have in common is that they are both forms of social media. Twitter is also not a replacement for high-quality, compelling, long-form social media content, though it can be a place to draw attention to content on other media. It’s still important, though, that you put effort and care into your tweets to ensure the best responses.
Retweeting is a function on Twitter that allows you to repost other’s content that you like from your own account (like Facebook’s “Share” function, but easier and more common). Retweeting content that you think is meaningful and important gives your followers and voters more insight into the things that you care about. You can also respond to tweets that you disagree with to show a contrast between you and your opponent, or other official that have policies that you agree with. Retweeting is a great way to respond, share, and spread news.
As stated earlier, Twitter is most commonly used as a real-time communications source, so “live tweeting” is a key way that this can be achieved. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, live tweeting is basically tweeting as an event happens — whether it’s a speech, a protest, a rally, or just a conversation. While a journalist may live-tweet breaking news as it happens, candidates will typically have a staff member live-tweet a debate, speech, or public appearance so people following along on Twitter can stay up-to-date.
But before you attempt it, a quick word of advice: live tweeting is hard! And often, you don’t realize how just how difficult it is until you try it yourself. Try to have tweets prepared ahead of time for a big speech, event, or debate to make it easier on yourself and your staff, and better drive engagement.
Best Practices for Tweets
- Because Twitter is a real-time platform, content changes rapidly all the time. For maximum effectiveness and reach, there are certain days and times that are best for your tweets to go out. Saturday and Sunday are the best days to tweet if you want the highest number of people possible to see it.
- The use of specific “taking action” language is important to direct people to take an action that you want them to. For example, “What this video” or “Tweet your congressman about…” or “Please retweet!”
- Always keep in mind the 140 character limit on tweets. This means that you need to get creative with your messaging and make sure that you are still getting a clear and concise message out despite necessary abbreviations and other shortening tactics.
- Stay professional and keep it clean. Twitter is also not an excuse to be “loose” with language and to create sloppy writing and content. Grammar, tone, and spelling aren’t as important as they are in official documents like press releases, but it’s still important to come across in a professional, polished way.
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