May 11, 2010

How personal is too personal?

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President Obama is perhaps our best example of how Twitter can work in a politician's favor. However, according to a recent article in The Economist, Chile, Venezuela and Japan are just three examples of countries with political officials out-tweeting U.S. politicians on a regular basis.

Public figures and Twitter can create a bit of a love/hate relationship. Politicians can connect directly with voters (to an extent), dispel rumors and respond to negative media coverage openly and honestly. But 140 characters can also be very damaging if a politician is not careful. As the article suggests, this great fear of Twitter is generating bland statements that are not providing the politician's followers with helpful or useful information.

So is Twitter a good idea or a bad idea when it comes to politics? When you look at extreme cases like S.C Gov. Sanford's affair, or John Edwards' secret mistress plus child, I frankly don't think anything can help or hurt their cause at that point (nor should it! But my dislike of those two requires an entirely separate blog post). However, I do think there is an opportunity to communicate with constituents in a way that is informative and honest. Politicians could take a few clues from other business leaders - speaking honestly but leaving the personal details at home and offline.

What do you think - do politicians stand a chance at success in the world of Twitter?



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