Politicians Tweet: Move Over Ashton Kutcher! : All Tech Considered Both Democratics and Republican are finally using social media to get their message out.

Politicians Tweet: Move Over Ashton Kutcher!

Politicians Tweet: Move Over Ashton Kutcher!

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128005428/128000287" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

This weekend, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) updated her 38,000 twitter followers on her efforts to change the system for holding up Presidential appointment hearings:

First battle won! With Sens Bond and Brownbeck now have 67 Senators on my letter calling for the end to secret holds. Now gotta get a vote. 11:09 AM Jun 19th

Senator McCaskill is a tweeting veteran. She's been on Twitter since 2008, and has tweeted to arrange interviews with CNN, answer questions from constituents, and mention things happening in her life:

Dancing daughter Lily graduating from HS tomorrow. Saw her performance today,tonight she received nice award at convocation. I'm very proud. 10:02 PM May 28th

Now, leaders of both parties in the House are trying to get more Congressional members engaged in social media by challenging members to get as many people as possible to follow them on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. The GOP just ended a six week long contest.

Following the Republican lead, House Democrats are two weeks in to a competition of their own. The winner on June 28 gets a prize: a twitter bird mounted on an old trophy stand put together by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-MD) staffers.

Maureen Beach, spokesperson for Rep. Hoyer's office told NPR that when they first announced the competition, there was some skepticism. "But once people got into it," she says, "They really got into it." Beach says their office has been flooded with emails and calls from members who are starting to stretch their social media muscles.

One of the frontrunners is Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), who upped the ante on his website with a tiny image of himself that walks onto the screen when the page loads, and invites you to connect with him online. He then teleports away after saying, “Beam me up, Scotty!”

Beach says more than 230 House Democrats are involved and so far they've gotten over 30,000 new social media followers for members. The GOP claimed 40,000 new followers from their competition. That’s a lot, considering that even two years ago, it wasn't clear if members of Congress could legally use these sites.

But John Wonderlich, Policy Director for the Sunlight Foundation, says to be wary of those numbers. The foundation advocated for the rules changed in 2008 that allowed Congress members to use social media.

The number of followers during the competition isn't a great metric, he says, since after it's over, people can just de-fan or un-follow their representatives. "But ultimately," Wonderlich says, "If this results in a few more members doing a little bit better creating a two-way dialog with their constituents, then I think that's worth its weight in gold."

This is especially true with midterms looming. From their official accounts, members have to comply by Congressional ethics rules, and that means no campaigning. Still, Wonderlich points out, "both sides have every incentive to say 'We are connected to you, we're dynamic and we're continuing to figure out new and better ways to represent you.'"