Joe Trippi recently observed on Twitter that both Obama and Clinton have fairly lame presences there. Both seem to be recycling standard issue campaign schedule material, example from @barackobama:
Holding a rally at Penn State University and a Town Hall in Harrisburg, PA today Learn more at http://PA.BarackObama.com. 02:46 PM March 30, 2008
Just spoke at Cooper Union in NYC, called for immediate relief for the housing crisis & an additional $30 billion to jumpstart the economy. 11:10 AM March 27, 2008
Holding a town hall meeting at the War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro, NC. 12:04 PM March 26, 2008
Note that Barack Obama has more followers (20,199) than any other Twiter user, but his campaign has only posted 92 tweets. To say that they are underutilizing the service is a massive understatement.
Meanwhile, @hillaryclinton is no less dry:
Today Iâ€™m kicking off a three-day economic tour with â€œSolutions for the Pennsylvania Economyâ€ events in Harrisburg and Fairless Hills, PA. … 09:56 AM March 31, 2008
Today, I am hosting Economy Town Hall events in Indy and New Albany before heading to Kentucky. 03:01 PM March 29, 2008
Today I’m making stops across Indiana â€“ Iâ€™m hosting two town halls, a roundtable event, and ending the day with a rally. 12:11 PM March 28, 2008
Hillary has 2,509 followers and posted 94 updates, meaning that her campaign is utilizing Twitter 10 times more more effectively than Obama’s.
I couldn’t find John McCain there (@johnmccain clearly isn’t official, though there are 40 people following that account in some vain hope).
What would a cool campaign use of twitter look like? To really fit with the tone of twitter (rather than just another outlet where campaign staffers phone it in) I think it would be great if the campaigns actually used it to educate and inform. Anytime a policy issue position is updated on the candidates’ web sites, for example, a tweet could be sent. Likewise, when a transcript of a speech is posted, or a new video uploaded. Rapid responses to attacks from other candidates/opponents could be announced. And, of course, fundraising on twitter would be groundbreaking – I wager that the response rate to a pitch on twitter would be 10x that of email, given the generally more tech-savvy and affluent nature of the twitter userbase. Also note that much of this could be automated, using RSS feeds from the candidate’s website and a service like Twitterfeed.
The pretense that Barack Obama is really twittering just to tell us where he happens to be and what he happens to be doing (town hall X, Y, Z…) is transparently fake. How about the campaigns drop the facade and just embrace the tool for what it can do rather than the cachet it might bring? In some ways I prefer McCain’s non-embrace.
Twitter is a classic example of a web 2.0 technology whose mundane description belies its power and utility. Much like blogs. The power of twitter is in the community, which John Unger has described as almost a sixth sense (scroll down and read his anecdote about traveling to Austin).
If a high-profile candidate were to truly embrace twitter – including a personal tweet themselves once on a while – they’d be opening the door to an entire new realm of potential publicity, support, and grassroots (techroots?) manpower. And more, in ways we can’t even predict yet. It’s inevitable, really.