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In Wake Of Weiner, Fewer Congressional Tweets

It sounds like the Anthony Weiner incident caused many Members of Congress to cut back their Twitter presence:

Lawmakers cut back on their use of Twitter last week after Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sent a lewd image of himself through the social network.

It’s impossible to say whether the drop in tweeting by lawmakers is attributable to Weiner’s problems, and last week did include the Memorial Day holiday.

Still, there was a significant drop in the number of tweets by lawmakers, who tweeted about 28 percent less the week of May 30 to June 3 than the previous week, according to a study by TweetCongress.

At the time, Weiner was claiming his Twitter account had been hacked. On Monday he acknowledged he sent the lewd tweet.

The week of the 30th, there were 2,104 tweets from Republicans and 843 from Democrats, compared to the 2,868 from Republicans and 1,182 from Democrats the previous week.

Lawmakers tweeted 50 percent less on Monday, May 30, than the previous Monday, though May 30 was Memorial Day.

The day Weiner held his press conference when he admitted he lied about being hacked, there was a noticeable decline in tweets by Democratic lawmakers. On Monday, June 6, there were only 120 tweets from Democrats. That’s about 30 percent less than the frequency of tweets two Mondays before. On the Republican side, 338 tweets were sent the Monday of Weiner’s presser, about an 18 percent drop from two weeks before.

The study was done by Chris McCroskey, one of the co-founders of TweetCongress, and his team at IdeaLoop LLC, a software company he owns.

It will be interesting to see if this whole episode leads to changes in the way the politicians handle social media. For many, of course, the Twitter account of their campaign or the Congressional office is really handled by a variety of staff members; a phenomenon that can lead to problems of its own as former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd learned last year. There are other members of Congress, though, like Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter, Missouri Senator Clare McCaskill and, of course, Congressman Weiner, who maintain personal control of their Twitter accounts, often with amusing (or in Weiner’s disastrous) results.

Since Twitter is a social network, it’s those accounts where politicians interact personally with their followers are usually the most popular, but they can also be the most dangerous. Even if you don’t make a mistake as bad as the one Weiner made (and let’s face it were it not for that May 27th accidental public tweet, we would not be talking about this story right now). there’s always the danger that you’ll appear too frivolous in your online interactions. That’s why many political communications “experts” seem to have a problem with the client having control over the means of communication.

Frankly, I don’t follow that many politicians on Twitter, mostly because their messages usually end up being links to their latest floor speech or committee hearing. If I want that, I’ll be able to find it elsewhere. However, a lot of people do follow them for information and interaction. It would be unfortunate if Anthony Weiner’s stupidity shut down this new line of communication between elected officials and their constituents.

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    This was a STRATEGY?

    LOL.

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  2. Twitter as a line for meaningful communcation? Please. And I thought soundbites were bad.

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  3. JKB says:

    Well, I think now they know not to go for any package deals on Twitter.

    And to modify the old chestnut,

    Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see published on Breitbart.

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  4. jwest says:

    I can think of three volunteers who are peeing their pants in anticipation for this:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/help-analyze-the-palin-emails/2011/06/08/AGZAaHNH_blog.html

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