As the 2012 Presidential election nears, the focus on politics – and politicians – continues to increase. The voting public wants to know who the candidates are, what they stand for, and most importantly, what they’ll do to improve the quality of American lives.
Businesses have recognized and harnessed the power of Twitter for getting their name known and, ultimately, increasing their profits. Now, politicians and even the President are leveraging Twitter to communicate with the public and advance their campaigns. Even those government leaders not worried about election use Twitter to keep the public informed and involved. But should politicians tweet?
The greatest potential for politicians on Twitter is to connect with their constituents and the entire American public. On an individual basis, they can tweet with Americans to acknowledge them and even carry on conversations. They can tweet about their lives and allow the public to get to know them more on a personal level. If public figures can humanize themselves and demonstrate that they’re just like everyone else, it usually always bodes well for their careers.
If politicians are using Twitter for these reasons, they should continue. Too often, however, Twitter is used purely as a platform to promote themselves and further their political agenda.
Many politicians don’t actually tweet – their staff tweets for them. This is disingenuous and serves only to provide the public with the manufactured version of a politician’s personality. If Twitter is purely a promotional ploy to them, politicians should not use it. But of course they will continue to take advantage of this means of communication to push their agenda. Even politicians who actually write their tweets will address politics, but they can do so in a way that is more sincere. When politicians do their own tweeting, however, there seems to be a greater potential for scandal.
There have been so many incidents – infamous and under-the-radar – of politicians sending tweets they soon regret. All you have to do is consider Senator Weiner’s tweet of a revealing and risque photo of himself to understand the potential gravity of tweeting gone wrong. Just too brash of a statement can alienate or offend followers. That’s why if politicians do their own tweeting, there should still be a step that involves their staff; campaign managers will want the opportunity to screen texts and possibly catch any mistakes before they happen.
When done right, Twitter provides an excellent public forum for average Americans to interact with politicians by voicing their opinions and concerns, asking questions and seeking answers. As long as the leaders are listening, they should be tweeting. Politicians can get creative with Twitter, such as holding live Q&A sessions or offering real-time updates on their decision-making process. As soon as Twitter becomes solely a marketing tool and nothing else, most people would prefer that politicians stop sending tweets and that they direct their attention elsewhere – to their jobs and to opportunities for, real in-person interaction with the voters.