In this blog I’m going to talk about Twitter and how it is used by politicians. 15 of the 20 leaders of the countries which are members of the G20 have an official Twitter account. This fact raises the interesting question that is why do the nation leaders and other politicians have Twitter accounts and how do they use them? It’s widely-known that there are two main advantages of Twitter: speed and globality. With the help of this social network, you can quickly deliver information to a huge number of users in all around the world. Twitter it is possible information about the most important and interesting events.It can be global, national, international, local or personal events. Political leaders mainly use Twitter to publish statements on topical issues. Since large number of journalists are followers of political leaders’ accounts, Twitter allows to disseminate information not only through social networks but also help to spread this news through traditional media. Thus Twitter can considerable time and effort on a political PR and media relations.
Country leaders have different types of Twitter accounts. Some of them has personal accounts, for instance Barack Obama twitter, while other leaders have twitter accounts related with their office, for instance, @KremlinRussia_E is an official twitter of press office of Russian President. Barack Obama was a pioneer of using Twitter in his election campaign in 2008. The Obama’s Twitter account was launched in 2007. In September 2014 it ranked 3rd in the world by followers. As of September 15, 2014, Obama’s account had 46,546,382 followers, followed with 648,090 accounts and had posted 12,389 tweets.
What are the main reasons for the creation of Twitter accounts for political leaders? We can assume that the most common reason for it is the belief that social media is a very effective channel of information interaction. Impressed by the success of Obama in the presidential election, which is actively used social networks, leaders of other countries to follow this example. Another reason is banal enough, but it is very simple, it can be expressed by the phrase: all have, and why I have not. That is, politicians are trying to follow the trend. The same can be explained by the reluctance of other politicians to use Twitter, so they are trying to preserve its uniqueness, to show the difference from the others. The interesting question remains it is who publishes the information to Twitter. It would be naive to believe that all political leaders have the ability to write in to Twitter in person on a regular basis. In most cases, special commands or press office do this. In 2009 Obama stated that he has never used Twitter. Obama started to tweet himself in 2011. His first tweet under his own initials, was about father’s day: “Being a father is sometimes my hardest but always my most rewarding job…” Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages at the same time. Advantages of the first approach include the fact that Twitter account using as an information channel helps to deliver information faster and more extensively to different audience. On the other hand, these accounts may be less interesting to the users because they do not create a personal contact between the political leader and his audience. However, this emotion connection is the main value of Twitter accounts run by political leaders. From my point of view this ia the main cause of the efficiency Twitter as a communication tool in election campaigns. Personal position and the personal opinion of the political leader is much more interesting to the public and may have a more significant effect in communication. At the same time most politicians try to avoid tweet personal thoughts and opinions on Twitter. There can be several reasons for this. Firstly, it is still difficult to define the status of this kind of personal publication. It can be interpreted as an official statement. At the same time political leaders just gives thoughts spoken aloud. Also publications on Twitter very often provoke discussion. Users can mark their favorite publications and comment on them. However, sometimes these discussion are not desired by leaders, because they like then the last word be left to them. Another importance when you are using Twitter for political purposes is to clear understand the target audience.
Such as in Russia audience of Twitter is only 11,600,000 people, it’s less than 2 per cent of the adult population of country. Besides socio-demographic characteristics of this population do not coincide with the main electorate participating presidential and regional elections. From this position we can see when the use of Twitter as a channel of information interaction is justified and when it can be the cause of negative consequences. Let try to image that Putin needs to give information about their policies for internal and external audiences. What is the information channel would be rational to use? Publications on Twitter don’t reach an audience that supports his policy because Twitter users are largely politically inactive young people or people with opposition sentiment. Two-way communication with this audience may be not only ineffective but also dangerous for the image of Putin. With regard to external audiences the use Twitter can give more risks than potential benefits. All publications on behalf of Putin will be perceived from the prejudices, that already exist in current international society. Therefore, the effect of this can be limited. On the other hand, the personal opinion about current situation delivered through social networks could significantly change the situation and improve Putin’s image.
Currently all his actions and decisions are evaluated and interpreted by the media, and can often be observed bias these estimates. Direct communication of political leaders and the public through social media minimize subjectivity generated by traditional media. From this perspective, perhaps Putin needs to learn from Obama and use the potential of Twitter to enhance their public position on the international scene. However, the most important question that can not be answered is that does Putin really care about his reputation and does he want to fix it or not. And if answer is NO, it clearly explain to us his preferences in his information strategy.
Finally, we can agree that, Twitter could be a powerful tool in building and maintaining political image, but its use must take into account many aspects, and be strategically justified.