The 140-Character-or-Less Campaign
“For those seeking an example of the breakneck pace of the mounting political “call and response” attack cycle, 84 minutes may very well be a new benchmark.
Republican digital strategist Vincent Harris, consultant for onetime Republican presidential hopefuls Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, figures that such skirmishes will escalate as the public demands them.
“People on Twitter like the drama of campaigns,” Harris says. “I think that’s why they’re on Twitter. I think they’d be bored if there wasn’t this constant chatter, and I think you’re going to continue seeing campaigns go to Twitter as a means to pick those fights.”
Besides its impact on messaging, Twitter is also becoming an important fundraising tool. “Twitter was a top eight referrer to the Gingrich campaign in terms of where money was being raised,” Harris reports. “For some of my other clients, it is an even more powerful fundraising tool than Facebook.”
Still, as vital as Twitter has become for political campaigns, there is a dark side. For anyone wiling away his days and nights on TweetDeck, fatigue becomes a very real thing, for campaign staffers and journalists alike. In a world routinely grown weary of micro scoops, memes and never-ending political posturing, a social media slipup can mean lost jobs, and lost campaigns.
“There’s so much chance for burnout,” warns Harris. “I think that does scare campaigns. It is terrifying in some ways to think that anyone from my staff or anyone who has access to a campaign Twitter account could instantly tweet out to over 1 million people whatever they want to say. And once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
The issue raises real questions about the restructuring of campaigns in the social media age. Should younger staffers who are more fluent in the medium be handed the reins? Or should senior staffers who can be trusted to stay on message—and stay out of trouble—be given social media oversight?
Says Harris: “It could be 140 characters that nails the coffin, begging the question: Who do you trust?”