Twitter for candidates

Twitter for candidates

handshakeI’ve been following the NYC public advocate race for the past few weeks, and noticed a while ago that all of the candidates are on Twitter. As I started following each of them, it became clear that they might not understand the full potential of social media and networking, because most of their tweets have been one-way broadcast tweets–posting how they feel about an issue, where they’re speaking that night, etc.

I griped a little yesterday about this, and Elana over at Wellstone Action asked me what advice I’d give candidates running for office. Here’s a quick, handy-dandy list of pointers for candidates, from the position of a voter:

  • Talk with me, not to me. Twitter is a media platform for conversation, not broadcast. A rule of thumb that’s used for organizations also applies to candidates: only about 20-30% of your tweets should be about you. The rest should be about what your community cares about. Which leads me to…
  • Find out what your community cares about. Read what your followers are tweeting and respond with helpful information. It doesn’t just have to be related to the office you’re running for, either… in fact, it’s better if you mix it up a little. For example, someone you follow tweets about heading to a restaurant you love. Respond and say you go there often, too, and be sure to try the blackened sea bass.
  • Stay on top of hot topics. Look for people talking about issues you care about with Twitter search. You can either save them as saved search in your Twitter app (Tweetie, Tweetdeck, Twitterific, etc.), or as an RSS feed for your news reader (Google Reader, Netvibes, etc.) Then respond to those tweets, even if you’re not following each other.
  • Give back to the community. Retweeting others’ ideas and suggestions is a great way to show appreciation, and to spead the good word.
  • Use your own, authentic voice, not a press release voice. I’m a voter, a human, and I want you to be a human too. Robots don’t do so well in the voting booth.
  • If you don’t have time, assign a staff person to monitor and respond to items — just make sure they’re clear that they’re your staff person, and not you. For example, NYC mayoral candidate Reverend Billy Talen has a personal account, as well as his campaign staff’s group account. If your staff person uses your account, ask them to note that they’re a staffer.

In short, act like a normal person who cares about the people around them, because we know you do!

Note: Bill de Blasio was the only public advocate candidate who responded to my gripe, and he gets extra Twitter points for both that and at least retweeting people once in a while. Go Bill!