Ken Rineer: Any particular reason why you have not set up a Twitter account for your Senate campaign?
David F. Nolan: [I]t's because I think the whole concept of Twitter is inane. What can I say in 140 characters that anyone wants to read? Maybe someone can convince me that it's a good idea, but almost nobody I know uses Twitter.
David Nolan is neither a dummy nor a political novice, so if he doesn't understand why Twitter is an absolutely essential component of almost any campaign for political office, chances are a lot of other candidates don't either.
Let's start with "almost nobody I know uses Twitter."
About 45 million Americans use Twitter. 82% of them are of voting age. 51% of them have undergraduate or graduate degrees. 58% of them earn $60k per year or more. [Source: Quantcast Audience Profile]
If you're a politician and you don't know these people, you need to know them. They're the people who follow campaign news, write checks to campaigns, volunteer for campaigns, and make it to the polling place even if it's raining.
Next, let's go with "[w]hat can I say in 140 characters that anyone wants to read?"
Here are a few suggestions:
"Reminder: Candidate meet and greet tonight at Bob's Diner, 6th and Main, 7pm!"
"Interviewed with KKNA TV today -- should air on tonight's 6pm news. Check it out."
"We're only $200 short of being able to air the next campaign ad. Who wants to put us over the finish line?"
Here are some things Twitter, used correctly, can help you accomplish:
- Bring visitors BACK to your campaign web site (hook your campaign blog into Twitterfeed.Com to automatically tweet title and link whenever you post news).
- Remind your supporters, actual and potential, of scheduled events.
- Hit your supporters up for campaign contributions.
- Turn your supporters into volunteers and help coordinate their efforts ("We're doorbelling the 5th ward tomorrow -- meet 8am at the Denny's on Jefferson").
- Keep your campaign bug in journalists' ears (yes, reporters love Twitter -- it saves them the effort of constantly checking up on you "manually" ... an effort they probably weren't going to make anyway if you are a third party candidate).
Does every campaign need a Twitter presence?
I suppose that a very local campaign in a very small constituency -- city council in a town of less than a thousand, for example -- could get by without one.
If you're running for US House of Representatives, US Senate or any statewide office, though, failure to maintain a Twitter presence amounts to nothing less than denying yourself potential campaign contributions, warm bodies at events, volunteer hours, media coverage and votes that you could have had a shot at for amazingly little work (half an hour tops to set up, a minute here and there to "tweet").