Recently I have been asked a lot about Twitter, mostly how to use it. The concept is simple: you create posts that are 140 characters long and you read your friends posts. However, leveraging the technology for something productive like campaigning is a lot more difficult.
As I wrote over a year ago in my first post about Twitter, http://www.republitech.com/2009/02/twittering-towards-future.html, Republicans are using Twitter much more than Democrats. This means, as a Republican, you are going to inherently have a larger audience than your rivals across the aisle. But, you must use the technology in a way that is helpful and engaging. Below are a collection of helpful hints on how to do that.
Understand the 140 character limit
What ever you want to say must be said in that small number of characters. There are several ways this will impact how you write your post. First, you need to be willing to use abbreviations. In Twitter it is perfectly ok to use “u” instead of “you.” There are also other abbreviations that I only see on Twitter, such as POTUS or President of the United States. Secondly, use a url shortener such as bit.ly or Tiny URL. What these services do is take a link such as http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/nyregion/17budget.html?hp and making them shorter such as http://nyti.ms/akrqzv. Go ahead and check, those two links go to the same place, but the second one uses significantly less characters. Finally, an issue many people do not think about is the effect of the length of their own Twitter name. Mine is “boyerbl” so that is 7 characters long. If someone wants to re-tweet (see re-tweeting below) my post, they must use all of the characters from my original post plus give me credit with “RT @boyerbl: ” or use an additional 13 characters (spaces count!). This means if my post is 130 characters long, it must be edited before being able to re-tweeted by another user.
Remember to re-tweet
Re-tweeting is a great way to interact with other Twitter users. If you find a post interesting and want to share it with your follows then you just copy the post and use the “RT @…” format. Just substitute the “…” for the user’s name. So if you liked something I posted, such as “Obama is the most dangerous thing to your healthcare” then you could post “RT @boyerbl: Obama is the most dangerous thing to your healthcare.” People really appreciate the credit and exposure that you will give them. It also is a great way to show that you are listening to what people have to say.
Actually have conversations on Twitter
Twitter is not just for posting how you feel, you can actually engage individuals with ongoing conversation. There are two ways to do this. A private way is to send a direct message (DM) to a person. The individual will be the only one who can read your DM. A public way is to refer to the individual in a post. If you wanted to talk to Karl Rove for example you would post “@karlrove How are you doing?” Karl Rove then could respond in the same way with “@yourusername Great, how about you?” This could go back and forth indefinitely.
Use hash tags when you can
A hash tag is a simple way of tagging posts. For example, you may see the hash tag “#tcot” a lot in conservative posts. #tcot is short for “top conservatives on Twitter.” It is a great way for individuals to find conversations on Twitter that they want to be a part of. If you want to rant about healthcare reform, post about it and add “#hcr” to the end. Or, do a quick search for “#hcr”. Either way, you will find people interested in the same issues that you are.
Get a Twitter application for your desktop
The application I use most is TweetDeck. I could write a whole post on this piece of software but let me just sum up its advantages. TweetDeck not only allows you to see your Twitter feed, it lets you customize multiple feeds that you can see at the same time side by side in columns. For example, I am currently one of the co-eCampaign chairs for Kasich’s Butler County campaign. One of the columns I have set to show me any posts that contain the word “Kasich” Another example: I also have a column that is set to the Ohio House GOP list. Any post from an Ohio House GOP member with a Twitter account gets put in that column. The ways to organize your columns are almost endless. This can become a powerful tool to manage your Twitter account (You can also link TweetDeck to multiple Twitter accounts and your Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace to help synchronize all of your social media).
Search for other users
While you may have followers find you on their own, a great way to attract attention and interest is to go out and find followers yourself. Do searches for certain keywords or hash tags to find people posting about issues you want to talk about. You can also search for individuals who are in your district. A service such as Twellow can help you greatly. Go to their website and look under “Twellowhood.” This is where you can find individuals from certain areas such as your constituency. In many cases these individuals that you follow will end up following you back and participating in conversation with you.
The next post will be March 30th.