Three counter-intuitive ways elected officials – and other professionals – can use Twitter

Social Media can be for everyone, but everyone can’t use Social Media the same way.  As yesterday’s entry hopefully showed, boilerplate accounts aren’t going to be as successful as unique efforts that go out of their way to be human and break down the walls between users.  I am a firm believer that every account doesn’t have to sound robotic; even ones run by politicians.  So, here are three thoughts on how anyone – but particularly politicians – can use Social Media, even though these ideas might run against the grain:

1) Don’t always stress about grammar: This is particularly true for Twitter, since the 140 character limit doesn’t exactly lend itself to the best spelling.  Every letter doesn’t have to be capitalized.  Every sentence doesn’t have to be grammatically correct.  Don’t get me wrong; don’t go out of your way to spell things wrong and try not to sound like a 12-year old who isn’t paying attention in class.  But, if you don’t always use capital letters in the right places, it’s okay.  Need proof?  Look at your Twitter feed and find the last five tweets that are from people (not brands or websites).  How many of them use perfect grammar or spelling?  I hope my English teachers will forgive me on this, but when it comes to Social Media, the content and the conversation is the important part–not the spelling or the grammar.

2)  For the love of God, don’t always tweet politics:  I really, really hope that this isn’t as counter-intuitive as it may seem, but if you use Social Media to only discuss your work, you are going to bomb, big time.  Social Media gives elected officials the opportunity to connect with their constituents on a personal level in addition to providing a platform to discuss policy.  As an elected official, one of the things I have really been stunned by is how many people think that elected officials live in an ivory tower, disconnected from the real world.  I was once on a call-in show on PCN and someone called to berate me for not feeling the pain of their constituents; this particular caller was saying that I didn’t know what paying school property taxes was like.  Umm…really dude?  I live in a twin in Allentown.  I shop at Giant.  I mow my lawn.  I change my kids diapers…a lot.  And I also pay my school property taxes, which have increased nearly 20% in the past three years, so yeah, I really feel your pain!  Here’s my point: use Social Media to show your human side.  Joke about what a pain it is to change diapers.  Make fun of yourself for the silly things you do.  Above all, be human, and use Social Media to better connect with the people you represent.

3) Discuss your troubles and (occasionally) complain:  Along the same lines as #2 – people like to see that their elected officials are just like them.  The more you can relate to your constituents, the better.  What better way to do that than to (occasionally) whine?  Yes, I said occasionally, because really, who is more annoying than the person that uses Social Media as an outlet for all of the troubles in their life?  By the same token, everyone occasionally vents on Facebook.  You need to use your judgement on what to say and how often to say it, but Social Media is meant for you to sound like a human.  And humans complain.

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