My husband loves USA Today (no offense to him or the paper, but it’s mostly because of the colors and graphics). A few weeks ago, he called me at work to ask if I’d seen their story “More governors finding Twitter tweets sweet.” (Background: This is relevant to me since I oversee social media for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick among other things)
I found the paper and eagerly flipped through it. It’s always great to be recognized for our work and this was no exception. But, I’ve got to admit that I was a little disappointed when I got to the article. I don’t mean to begrudge the author. He’s got an audience to write for and limited space. But, I think he missed a couple of important points.
How we stacked up.
There was a graphic on the print version that rated the “Top 5” Governors on Twitter with essentially this info (numbers are follower count):
– Tim Pawlenty – 13,317
– Jennifer Granholm – 12,703
– Deval Patrick – 9,100
Sure, our @massgovernor account was still in the top 5 and the others all deserve to be recognized for their embracing of social media tools and the work it takes to maintain them, but…
What about the social part ?
The rating was based solely on follower count.
While it sometimes drives me crazy when people think others should use social media the exact same way they do, I do believe that a lot of the benefit of social media come from the social part. We’ve spent a lot of time integrating Twitter into our customer/constituent services functions. We respond to tweets. The Governor tweets directly from his blackberry and sees responses incorporated in constituent feedback. We integrate tweets into input on public policy. We use them to help understand what people need from us online and off.
I would have liked to have seen some exploration of that “stuff.”
A Governor or a Politician?
Two of the “Top 5” are managed by the governors’ political operations rather than as their official (i.e. within government) accounts.
I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but there’s a difference in how social media can/should be used in those spaces. Within an official office, they can be an extension of outbound communications, constituent feedback and service, represent the official position on issues, serve all people regardless of political affiliation, etc.. A political action committee generally has more freedom to engage in debates and discussions based on opinions, encourage people to fund-raise and rally, and maybe be a little more ‘bold’ (and thus more interesting?).
What do you think? How should elected officials really be graded on their use of Twitter and other social media tools? Is it an important distinction to folks if a tool is being used by their governor’s office or by their political committee? Does it matter to people who aren’t in the weeds of this stuff like me?