According to the political lead for Twitter, politicians should be more personable in their accounts, even to the extent of responding to a constituent’s tweet who saw him or her in the grocery store.
Thursday night, Adam Sharp from Twitter served on a panel with Jonathan Perelman, global lead in industry relations for Google, moderated by Susan Swain, C-SPAN’s co-CEO. Loeb Hall was filled with students to discuss with the guests how constituents and politicians use both Google and Twitter.
Sharp said he thinks the more personable and relatable a politician is – even to the point of telling a follower, “I’m in the food aisle, come say hi,” as a Missouri senator did – the stronger the political message.
“One of the biggest questions people usually ask is who will they vote for,” Sharp said. “The real telling, predicting question is do you agree or disagree with this statement – ‘This person shares my life experiences,’ or, ‘This candidate thinks about people like me,’ or, ‘Has lived a life like mine.’ All of the sudden, the door for political messages has opened that much wider.”
Politicians have also become much more accessible through their use of Google and Twitter. Months ago, president Barack Obama held an open Twitter forum for anyone to ask any questions they had. Obama has also held a “Google hangout.” Tuesday, Mitt Romney decided to do the same with the American people. A “Google hangout” is basically a video group chat. These have both increased one-on-one communication with constituency, Sharp said.
Perelman said he has heard of some politicians complain about the implications of such connection with voters.
“’You elect us to make the decisions,’” Perelman said one politician had stated. “Everyone has a voice. It makes it harder for those in office but I think it’s a good thing.”
As social media changes the way news is consumed, traditional media outlets have had to keep up with consumers to stay relevant – even C-SPAN, Swain said.
“We’re traditional in that we use video as our main platform but we’re very much connecting with people,” Swain said. “Nobody can be strictly a traditional news organization or a journalistic organization in the way that they used to 10 or 15 years ago.”
One way C-SPAN has been used to help keep politicians accountable as other social media has is through use of the C-SPAN archive videos.
“More and more political organizations and news organizations are going into that archive and finding footage of people who are running for office and sending it out by social media,” Swain said. “Candidates are being forced to respond to something that they might have done 15 years ago.”