Three Things This Election Has Taught Us About Using Twitter


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Photo by: Bella Fordyce

By: Bella Fordyce

As the 2016 election cycle draws (mercifully) to a close, one thing that has been abundantly clear is that it has been unlike any other the country has ever seen. Both campaigns have been characterized by scandal and spectacle, and their social media accounts haven’t been immune. Twitter in particular has played a huge role in 2016 for the candidates, but it hasn’t always benefited their campaigns. Here are three takeaways from their Twitter missteps that we can learn from:

Don’t try to over-simplify:

Twitter has built its following around brevity–quick snippets of information are more easily digestible and appealing to busy people wanting to know what’s going on in the world. Having a strict character count, however, can make it difficult for users to talk about complex issues in the level of detail they deserve. Hillary Clinton learned this the hard way, when her campaign tweeted the following:

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The attempt to ask young voters about a relative issue in a relatable way backfired, with reactions ranging from the highly sarcastic to the highly offended. Many millennials took this tweet as being insulting to their ability to have an intelligible conversation about a complex economic issue. Though the strategy may have been a good idea in theory for that audience, it wasn’t appropriate for the question in particular.

Know the power of a retweet:

Consistently posting content is a must for a successful social media account, but quality always trumps quality. Late last year, Donald Trump retweeted a graphic that contained false statistics from a source that was found not to exist. In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, he said, “I didn’t tweet — I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert… am I gonna check every statistic?” Though he may not have created the content himself, a retweet is considered to be an endorsement of whatever the tweet said —especially if you are an influencer or in a high-level position. Before retweeting, make sure to do a quick fact check of what account it’s from and where the content information came from.

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Timing can be everything:

Following the first presidential debate, Donald Trump unleashed a series of tweets attacking beauty queen Alicia Machado in the early hours of the morning. Though Trump hasn’t been a stranger to using Twitter as a means of expressing his opinions, the timing of these tweets stood out. The Clinton campaign was able to use this to their advantage by asking “how much restraint and good temperament can a person have if they are asking their followers to check out a sex tape on social media in late hours of the night?” Make sure to look beyond the “optimal” times for posting and consider the “appropriate” times for posting.

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While none of us will probably be running for office anytime soon, social media has become an integral part of a public relations professional’s toolkit. Be sure think through posts on both personal and client accounts because once a tweet is out there, it’s nearly impossible to ever completely delete.

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