We’ve talked before about how Facebook and other social media sites have become a busy hub for political activity. Not only do huge numbers of people get political news and information from these social networks, but politicians and their staffs consider it an important way to disseminate their messages and gauge the opinions of their constituents. Today, more public figures than ever are really starting to get it, and some have become outright social media stars. Let’s take a look at the social media styles of a couple key personas.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has attracted a large national fan base for being a vocal member of the Democratic Party’s left wing. Whether she plans to or not, thousands of voters around the country are already pushing for her to make a presidential run in 2016, and the enthusiasm around her is evidenced by her massive number of followers. More than 1.3 million people like her “Public Figure” page on Facebook (note: this is separate from her page as a “Government Official”), and she’s racked up 166,000 Twitter followers. As a comparison, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been in the Senate for 18 years longer than Warren, has just 163,000 followers on Facebook, and about 50,000 on Twitter. Across social networks, Warren’s content is both personal and professional. Her posts are written in the first person and she’ll sometimes post non-political sentiments. When the New England Patriots won this year’s Super Bowl, she was quick to make a Facebook post saying, “Woo-Hoo! Congratulations Patriots Nation!!!” However, those triple exclamation points are the only grammatical errors you will find posted. She maintains an air of official-ness that most would expect for a government official, but she also supplements her mostly news-oriented posts with a long-form blog series that melds personal experiences into political messages. The blog provides a ton of insight into her way of thinking, and plenty of meaty quotes that add to her coveted image as a tough fighter for liberal causes.
On the right side of the aisle, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has managed to bring his big personality to life online. He is one of only four members of the House of Representatives from a lesser-populated state, but his Facebook and Twitter pages have 24,000 highly engaged followers each. That means he has 20,000 more followers than Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Iowa’s second most popular House member on Facebook, and even more than Chuck Grassley, one of the state’s U.S. senators. On Facebook, King and his staff keep it official and policy-focused. Some posts are written in the first person, others just feature block quotes from the congressman, and they mainly follow news events. On Twitter, he is more off the cuff and personal. As I’m writing this, King’s most recent tweet accuses Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) of “Cultural Poison: Teaching people intergenerational hatred.” While King keeps his constituents up to date with the happenings in Washington on Facebook, he takes his stand in the culture wars on Twitter.
Warren and King both exemplify successful social media use. While their points of view, and even the types of content they share are different, they do employ a similar approach. Both maintain an official and professional presence on Facebook, but also keep a channel for more personal thoughts. For Warren this is her blog, for King, his Twitter. At the end of the day, all of these communications are designed to capture attention and increase support for the politicians and his or her views. Having a relatively “boring” Facebook page is still part of a targeted approach, because it’s what voters expect and find appropriate. Meanwhile, a secondary, “off the script” channel allows these two public figures to put their honesty on display and show that they aren’t afraid of speaking their minds. Together, they create an appealing package for interested voters, which in turn deepens their social media engagement. Warren and King may both be 65 years old, but their well thought out strategies show that politicians across a spectrum of ideology and age have fully adapted to the world of social media.