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Twitter: Nuts and Bolts

by shackbarth

Just as Twitter was a useful tool when asking for votes, it can be useful for serving constituents and informing the public. I’ll give you some tips I learned from my years working in the U.S. Senate.

In this post I’ll talk about Twitter nuts and bolts. In my next post, I’ll go into what your boss and your office should tweet about.

Start by creating a new, official account

Yes, I know you have thousands of followers on the campaign account. Yes, I know dual accounts can divide your audience, but until House and Senate rules are clarified it’s a good practice to have separate accounts. Just do it. Now, I have seen offices mix official with campaign tweets, and surprisingly haven’t read any stories about whether this is a violation of Congressional rules. To be safe, keep separate accounts and don’t be the first office to be the subject of such a story.

Sign up for an account

And find a good Twitter name ASAP. Even if you don’t know how you’ll use the account you will at least prevent crafty opponents from snapping up your boss’ name.

Get your staff on Twitter

Activists, reporters, and your constituents are talking on Twitter. Join the party. To get good at Twitter you have to use Twitter. Having a few staffers on Twitter also helps when you want to get added exposure for one of your boss’ tweets.

For staffers already on Twitter, advise them to keep a clear distinction between official business tweets, political tweets, and personal tweets. Staffers can maintain their own personality, but they shouldn’t tweet about fundraisers, campaign events, or helping other campaigns on official office time or using office computers or BlackBerrys. Also, staff should assume any tweet could end up on the front page of The Huffington Post. A disclaimer saying “all opinions are my own” won’t stop a reporter from writing a story. No one wants to lose their job because of an unwise tweet.

Don’t have a staffer pretend to tweet as your boss

Ideally your boss should tweet, but there will be those who simply won’t do it. Don’t create the illusion; there’s enough cynicism in politics. You can still be interesting and get followers without the boss tweeting.

If you plan to have a mix of boss and staff tweets, prevent confusion by labeling the tweets as being from staff. For example, Sen. Russ Feingold’s campaign staff used “STAFF” as a label.

Use analytics

Use a URL shortening service like bit.ly to tracks click-throughs. That way you can see what content is most interesting to your boss’ followers. This gives you an instant focus group.


Push videos on Twitter. Mention Twitter in videos, on Facebook, and in emails to constituents. Have staffers put their boss’ Twitter handle in their email signature. Your audience is across multiple channels, so you need a multi-channel approach to reach them.