Republicans are more hip to Twitter. And not just because John McCain bonded with Snooki over Twitter.
A study – “Capitol Tweets: Yeas and Nays of the Congressional Twitterverse” – conducted by the PR firm Edelman found that Republican members of Congress are more effective with using the social media tool than their Democratic counterparts.
It’s no surprise Twitter has become a mainstay in the political arena. Congressional use of Twitter has grown from merely 38 Tweeting Members in 2008 to nearly 88 percent of the House of Representatives using Twitter, which translates into roughly 382 Members. That’s just about ten-fold jump in less than four years.
The Edelman study used several metrics to rate the effectiveness of Congressional Twitter use, including engagement, mentions, amplification, follower growth and TweetLevel influence.
The study found that Republican Members received twice as many replies to their tweets as did Democratic Members. And, on average, GOP Members received 3,270 mentions per Twitter handle than their Democratic colleagues, who averaged 1,584 mentions per handle. That’s about a two to one difference. Republican Members also had their tweets retweeted more by highly-followed Twitter users (identified as those with 10,000 or more followers), helping amplify their message influence, quicker.
And, as for TweetInfluence, Edelman listed the top ten most influential Congressional Tweeters. In the House, seven House Republicans made the list, compared to only one House Democrat, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). House Republicans that made the list were Speaker John Boehner (Oh.), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), and Reps. Bob Latta (Oh.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Kenny Marchant (Texas) and Jason Chaffetz (Utah) .
Why the significant discrepancy? It’s likely how the different Members are tweeting. Republicans averaged tweeting 30 percent more than the Democrats. In their tweets, they were more likely to tweet out links by 52 percent, and 60 percent more likely to incorporate multimedia, like pictures and video.
A big reason can be attributed to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference. She has spearheaded efforts to get Republican Members of Congress to sign up and use Twitter. In 2010 she orchestrated the New Media Challenge which was a six-week contest, similar to March Madness, which encourages the GOP members to become more active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Representative John Fleming from Louisiana’s 4th District won the 2010 Challenge and again when the contest was held in 2011.
McMorris Rodgers has been incredibly successful in getting her colleagues to adopt new media. In January 2009, only 30 percent of House Republicans were on Twitter. Now, in 2012, more than 90 percent are on Twitter. She launched GOPLabs in July 2011 to help other Republican Members of Congress to utilize social media and has been a force in blogger outreach.
In a statement to Red Alert Politics, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers said:
“House Republicans are committed to using social media to listen, engage, and stay connected with our constituents. Our Members recognize that we have to continue to stay head of the curve online. Our challenge now is to make the most effective use of the social web, and to tap the potential of more directly involving the American people in their Congress.”
Social Media, especially Twitter, is going to be a huge force in the upcoming election. Twitter “Town Halls” are becoming more popular and presidential debates have increasingly used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to ask questions of candidates and engage voters.
In Congress, Republicans are way ahead of Democrats when it comes to exploiting Twitter as an effective message medium. If Democrats want to catch up, they should really take a look at the guidance and support that Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers offered her Conference to start tweeting more often and more effectively.