@Gov Walker Could Be a Better Tweeter

Analyzing the Gov's use of social media

During the past few months of hoopla around the Capitol, the news media have fixated on the analog story—the fourteen senators hunkering down in Illinois, the record number of protesters, the folks phoning in pizza orders from Cairo. Yet another story was emerging … a digital story.

This story is (still) happening online as Republicans and their followers and unions and their followers talk in loud and sometimes obnoxious voices, mostly among themselves via Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

The digital story is at least as important as the analog story because it impacts how those outside of the boots-on-the-ground story experience and participate in it. Want to get Aunt Carol in Rhinelander in on the excitement? Send her a link to the live webcam from the Capitol. Want to use the standoff to raise money from all over the globe? Use text-to-donate. There are many more examples, but the one I want to zero in on is how Gov. Scott Walker uses Twitter.

I’ve followed @GovWalker throughout the last few months because, well, he’s our elected executive and his tone matters. For contrast, I also checked out how other governors use their Twitter accounts. These observations can help anyone become more effective in the Twitterverse.

Tip #1: Listen.

@GovWalker has more than 15,000 followers, but he follows only one organization, HootSuite, a Twitter service.

By contrast, @JohnKasich (R-Ohio) has over 17,000 followers and follows over 8,000 others in the Twitter-verse. @JerryBrownGov (D-California) has a million-plus followers and follows more than 800 folks on Twitter. Do governors Kasich or Brown read all these tweets? Of course not. But by following others, they signal that they’re tuned in and listening.

As famed businessman Lee Iacocca says, “The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you already know it all, or you just don’t care.”

Tip #2: Use Twitter to talk with people, not at them.

This is related to tip one but takes listening from passive to active. Most power users of social media agree on this general rule of thumb: Talk about others twelve times more than you talk about yourself.

In other words, don’t make yourself the center of attention. @GovWalker hasn’t mastered this yet. In a scan of one hundred of his most recent tweets, more than eighty percent promoted his media appearances, his large crowds of supporters or articles supportive of him or the Republicans. In other words, @GovWalker is using Twitter as a lectern. That’s too bad, because Twitter can be far more powerful when it’s used to engage with others.

Tip #3: Don’t retweet others’ compliments of you.

This is a freshman mistake, but it really turns people off—even your fans—because it makes you seem insecure.

In a February blog post on social media etiquette, author and consultant Chris Brogan wrote, “Retweeting people’s praise of you comes off as jerky. Just thank them.” A month later, @GovWalker began retweeting others’ “attaboys.” Did our highest elected official really need
to retweet these?

Next time someone says something nice about you, simply reply with “Thanks”—or don’t say anything at all.

Tip #4: Be mature and professional.

Sarcastic tweets like this one—sent the day after Ash Wednesday—are a “flame,” a comment intended to enrage the other side:
@GovWalker: The budget repair allows us to save 1500 state jobs. I notified the unions of the good news this AM.

9:12 AM Mar 11th via HootSuite

I can’t imagine the CEO of any company in Madison sending a tweet like this one during a labor negotiation, can you? The tone seems intentionally antagonistic toward unions and comes off as immature for a state’s highest-ranking elected executive.

Tip #5: Update your Twitter photo with a good headshot.

This may seem like a small deal, but I think it’s weird that @GovWalker is looking away from the camera for his Twitter photo. He needs a new headshot, one in which he’s smiling and looking straight at the camera—and into the eyes of his electorate.

@GovWalker is among the first generation who has tools like Twitter to engage directly with constituents, clients, fans and followers. Yes,
he’s made some freshman mistakes, but he is, after all, a freshman.

Rebecca Ryan studies trends including how social media is changing politics, business and society. Contact her at rr@nextgenerationconsulting.com

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