Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

[BackChannel] 2013: The Year of the Jilted Tweep?

BY Edward Erikson and Matthew MacWilliams | Friday, February 8 2013

techPresident's Backchannel series is an ongoing conversation between practitioners and close observers at the intersection of technology and politics. Edward Erikson is a senior associate at MacWilliams Sanders Communication and a teaching associate at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Matthew MacWilliams is a founding partner at MacWilliams Sanders Communication.

Imagine you go on a really great date with someone, but they wait three months before they call you back for a second date. What do you think are the odds that you’d be happy to hear from them? When candidates go dark on their Twitter accounts for months immediately after getting reelected, that is exactly what they are doing to their tweeps.

While 2012 will be remembered as the year of the tweet, 2013 may be remembered at the year of the jilted political tweep. In January, we analyzed candidate Twitter accounts for 33 of the most contested House races and found something a little unusual: after the election, most winning candidates stopped tweeting. 24 out of 33 of the winners went dark after November 7 – meaning that they tweeted two times or less between November 7 and January 16, 2013.

Nearly every local, state and federal candidate had an active Twitter presence in 2012. And it’s no surprise. Twitter is currently the fastest growing social network on the web: 32% of all internet users have a Twitter account; there are 140 million active users and 62% of those users are between 18 and 34.

But the fact that candidates dropped their tweeps immediately after the election results were tallied reveals that campaigns still have a lot to learn about social media. Our analysis of the jilted tweeps suggests that many campaigns still see social media as a traditional campaign communication outlet — a unidirectional channel to flood targets with messages that generate a transactional Election Day sale. But social media isn’t about transactional relationships, it’s about community. And it’s about engaging and grooming Twitter super users.

Campaigns depend on super-users to drive their messages throughout the course of an election. Super users are select and coveted tweeps with large followings and a very active Twitter presence. Super-users understand social media and are embedded in the community. They recognize fellow community members as well as impostors. A transactional Twitter strategy not only prevents campaigns from maximizing social media opportunities, it may also create a blowback with super users that could harm candidates in the next election. If super users feel jilted after the election, they may be less likely to take action when the next campaign heats up and may even call a campaign out on social media.

The last two election cycles have shown that social media, especially Facebook, can increase voter turnout and election outcomes. While it has yet to be seen whether or not Twitter had a measurable impact on congressional races, the rapid growth of active users suggests that it could become an essential tool to cultivate support networks, mobilize voters, and win elections. When campaigns inevitably return to Twitter, they should reevaluate the way they think about social media. After all: jilt me once shame on you, jilt me twice, shame on me.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.

GO

wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

More