Twitter is growing by leaps and bounds. It is starting to reach into the main stream, especially when you consider how even the 2008 Presidential Candidates are using it to get the message out about their campaigns. I looked at all three candidates presently still alive in the race, Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama on the Democrat side, and John McCain on the Republican side and how they used twitter.
I wanted to be fair and show both sides, but when I went and looked at all three, and I couldn't find the "official" Twitter page for John McCain. However, I did find two popular ones McCain News & JohnMcCain2008. Not sure who it is that really has the John McCain Twitter account, but its obviously not the John McCain running for President. Searches on Twitter for John McCain don't produce the official twitter account either. Since that campaign isn't utilizing Twitter at this point as a campaign tool, I'm just going to focus on the Democrats.
Hillary Clinton & Twitter
I sit here at my keys wondering how to start this. Well you know that term "elitist" that's been tossed around these days before the upcoming Pennsylvania primary? Well if you looked at Twitter, you honestly would be thinking the opposite of what the press tells us here in Pennsylvania (mind you I take what the press tells me with a grain of salt) or this candidate. When you look at Hillary Clinton's Twitter account, you see that she follows NO ONE. Seriously, no one.
Then there's the Hillary Clinton Twitter account for her MySpace page. Alright, that one does a little bit better, they are following one person on twitter (as of this writing). There are a bunch of other Twitter accounts out there about Hillary Clinton as well and those fare better in the way of following their followers.
Talk about wanting to put out a very controlled message. Everything that comes into the Hillary Clinton Twitter account is a reflection of her blog, but added with the words "I am" or "I'm". There's no opportunity for two way conversations when you think of it, and there's nothing more than what's on her blog. It's all about delivering the "spin" in a very tight, precise and controlled fashion - typical of "old politics" and how they like to run campaigns. Trouble is - we're in a new world now and on the internet there's not a lot you can control when you enter the Social Media realm. It's also why it doesn't appeal to the younger set of voters, they see this as typical "old politics" - not the opportunity to have their voice heard.
There are a lot of other Hillary Clinton based or themed Twitter accounts out there. When you do a search on Hillary Clinton in the Twitter site you return 12 results, and the official Hillary Clinton Twitter account doesn't appear to near the bottom of the page. Some of these are detractors (take a look at the icon for third result in this screen capture of the search results for 'Hillary Clinton'), but some are fans and supportors that are reporting on the news that Clinton is making in the media. These accounts actually are engaging in conversation about Hillary Clinton, unfortunately for the Clinton campaign they can't control it.
Barack Obama & Twitter
By contrast, you look at the Barack Obama Twitter account and you see this account is following just as many as are following him (sometimes it falls behind). Who ever is running the account (I find it hard to believe that either candidate is "Twittering" like us "somewhat normal" folks are), is actively engaging in following people who choose to follow them, and they are twittering in a way that isn't as controlled.
If you look at the type of Tweets that are coming out of the Barack Obama Twitter account, they seem a lot more personable and less "contrived". There is the "I'm doing this" but it's also including things like "why don't you come and see me" or "take a look for yourself" parts of a conversation that engage the audience and ask them to do something. Compared to the Clinton Twitter account its refreshing to see this account seeming to interact with its followers rather than bragging about doing this or doing that.
Barack Obama's campaign team has also really promoted and used twitter, not just to say "I'm at this debate" or "I'm at this place speaking", they use it to say "hey come take a look at our video" and use it to promote different things with the campaign. It must be working, because they have over 7 times the followers that Hillary Clinton does. I think this also goes to show how Barack Obama is Rocking the Youth Vote, where Hillary Clinton does not. All of this really makes me wonder, if they (Barack's campaign) took it to the next level and said "Hey voters in PA, tell us what you think about XYZ", how this might engage more supporters and voters?
A search on Twitter for "Barack Obama" shows 17 different accounts on Twitter, and the official Barack Obama account is right at the top. It's also a little easier to see that if you just typed in "Obama" into Twitter, of those 90+ results - the majority of those are Barack Obama supporters. Its easy to see this because his name is pretty unique, unlike typing in "Hillary" or "Clinton" where it is a lot more murky as those names are more common as people's first names or last.
So what's the conclusion in all of this, does it translate over votes? Well a lot would point to Ron Paul and how he grew on the internet as a force to be reckoned with, but yet that didn't translate into votes that it probably doesn't.
I think Barack Obama's campaign is fairing a lot better, thanks in part, not just to Twitter but to them recognizing how to use social media on a whole to communicate (yes two way conversations) with the younger set of voters in this country. Look at the exit polling numbers, look at the data of the record number of youth votes in this primary - and then look at who they voted for. I'd say social media definitely has some kind of influence there, don't you?