December 07, 2011, 8:09 AM — It's almost the year 2012, and all of our elected officials are expected to be well acquainted with social media, or at least to have hired people who can fake it for them. And, proving that politicians are essentially just like us, they take a variety of tacks in using social media to get the message out. To illustrate, I offer this admittedly anecdotal sample of U.S. Senators and Representatives, each of whom illustrates a specific Twittering type.
The PR feed
Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi illustrates what's by far the lowest common denominator of political social media: just using your Twitter feed as a place to stick your press releases. Just look at this sorry stream of links, mostly to press releases put out by his office, some to videos of him being interviewed on TV, occasionally to a relevant news article. The tweets are actually double-posted from Facebook, which means that some of the text is cut off, too. This is the sort of stuff that 20 years ago would have been faxed out to various news outlets, I guess, but now it's all on Twitter, so it's kind of futuristic.
The Gallant to the PR feed's Goofus is the elected official who actually interacts with other Twitter users. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota is good example: his feed is full of retweets of responses to fellow Twitterers -- sometimes agreeing with them, sometimes not. Of course, there's no telling for sure that it's the Congressman doing the talking here, but with this kind of high-level interaction it seems more likely.
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is currently running for the Republican nomination for President, and is a profoundly polarizing political figure -- people either love her or hate her, largely because of her strongly held and often controversial political views. But you'd never know that from her Twitter feed, which seems to have been put through some special filter so that only the blandest topics can be discussed. Seeing her in the GOP debates might send you into a rage-frenzy, but can you argue against fighting cyber attacks, promoting adoption, helping the Red Cross bring succor to soldiers overseas, or raising awareness of lung cancer? Maybe she saves all her controversial stuff for her secret Tumblr, I don't know.