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Who Has the Most Twitter Klout in Congress? (The Answer Will Surprise You)

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, September 22 2009

Wondering which Members of Congress have clout? Not the kind that gets legislation passed or stopped, but the kind that turns heads online? Well, with the help of our friends at Klout.com, we've taken a look at 81 Members of Congress who have been active Twitter users over the last year, and the results may surprise you.

Right now, according to Klout's analysis, which weighs 25 different variables in assigning a score to a Twitter user, no Member of Congress has more Klout than none other than Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

His score: 79.0 out of 100. According to the site, that makes him a "persona" on Twitter:

"You have built a personal brand around your identity. There is a good chance that you work in social media or marketing but you might even be famous in real life. Being a persona is not just about having a ton of followers, to make it to the top right corner you need to engage with your audience. Make no mistake about it though, when you talk people listen."

This is very good news for Republican new media strategist David All (and sometime techPresident contributor), who was hired by Wilson a week ago to be his professional tweeter (kind of like a spokesman, only shorter). All has helped Wilson step up the volume of his tweets, but according to Klout's profile for the congressman, his twitter-clout has been steadily rising for months, even before All's arrival.

Why is Wilson's score so high? The Congressman doesn't have a huge number of followers (12,274). But Klout measures engagement, reach, how often one's messages are retweeted, reciprocity, the influence of one's followers, and the effectiveness of one's tweeting (i.e. how many updates someone has posted and how far those messages have spread). And on nearly all of those measures, Wilson is above average. In particular, he is "retweeted by more unique people than almost anyone," the site's profile reports, and has a "very large audience of influencer @ network."

The next nine Members of Congress on Twitter, ranked by their Klout:
Sen. John McCain: 75.4
Sen. Jim DeMint: 72.9
Sen. Claire McCaskill: 72.3
Rep. John Boehner: 67.9
Rep. John Culberson: 62.8
Rep. Michele Bachmann: 55.5
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: 54.6
Rep. Eric Cantor: 54.5
Rep. Keith Ellison: 51.0

These are the only Members out of our sample with Klout scores above 50; eight out of ten are Republican. If we look at the next group, with scores between 40 and 50, Republicans continue to dominate, with seven compared to four Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in that group, with a Klout score of 46.2. She is also rated a "persona" by the site.

It should be noted that we aren't looking at the complete list of current Congress-twitters, which numbers 188, according to CongressTwitTweetCongress.org. We'll do another survey with Klout's help shortly of that whole list. But it's safe to say that more recent Twitter users aren't likely to be doing as much with the platform as this group of more veteran Congress-twits.

Why do Congressional Republicans appear ahead in the Twitter-sphere? I think the main reasons are a) they have more time on their hands to actually use Twitter than their colleagues in the Democratic majority, who are busy actually crafting legislation, b) they have more to gain from being outspoken right now, and c) they started earlier than many of their Democratic peers. That said, Klout's data suggests that few Members of Congress are really using Twitter very effectively. Most aren't engaging a community all that well, and instead use the tool primarily to broadcast a PR style message that isn't likely to get spread around much by others.

But clearly, Twitter isn't just a useful tool for congressional leaders looking for one more soapbox to stand on and one more megaphone to use. The surprisingly high scores of backbenchers like Wilson, Bachmann, Culberson and Ellison (on the left) show that it is also a great way for Congress's ideological outliers to amplify their presence in the public arena.

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