Digital Humanities

Critical review of Twitter as a communication tool.

Twitter is defined as “A social networking website, which allows users to publish short messages that are visible to other users. These messages are known as tweets, and can only be 140 characters or less in length.” (Business Dictionary ) Since its beginning in 2006, Twitter has evolved from being a micro-blogging site into a powerhouse of communication, being at the forefront of current events and politics. It is impossible to talk about Twitter without talking about the events of the 2016 Presidential campaign and with POTUS Trump, insisting on using his own Twitter account rather than an official POTUS version.

 

Credit: Twitter

Johnson and Gross examine how Twitter can be used as a campaign tool in politics as it is a much more cost-efficient way to reach voters. There is also less mediation on Social Media for candidates in order to share their opinions and views. They also talk about why politicians, use Twitter, especially for this kind of communication, stating, “…Twitter is becoming what we might call a cross-over medium, serving to link social and traditional media. Tweets are not particularly flexible conduits of meaning, due to the strict limit of 140 characters per tweet. And yet, this restriction brings its own opportunities in a crowded marketplace of messages.” (T.Johnson) Saying this, Twitter has become a go-to way for people to interact with their government representatives as soon as possible. Often this is the only way for people to air their concerns to the relevant people in real time.

This is hugely beneficial and important to be aware of for candidates and politicians as it could help them get an idea of what their constitutes are concerned about and also for those in politics to make quick informal statements on how they plan to help in the future. Leticia Bode has put together a report where she examined tweets during the 2010 election. The research shows that “54.2% of tweets have no issue content, suggesting that issue mentions are much less prevalent on Twitter. This is an indication that candidates may be using Twitter in a fundamentally different way then they use traditional campaign tools.” (Bode)

Returning to the 2016 elections, many people have discussed the use of Social Media in particular, during 2015 when Trump and Bernie Sanders where beginning their campaigns, they started using Facebook in order to get the attention of the younger voters. However, things changed later on in the campaign when Trump moved to Twitter, according to Jacob Marx, “Trump has had a contentious relationship with the Republican Party, which led to the need for Twitter to get his message out since the party fought against him.” (Marx) In comparison, in the 2008 and 2012, The Obama campaign, one of the first politicians to use Social Media as part of their Campaign, used Twitter as a way to promote the campaign and to publish where the senator was going to be during the campaign trail.  However, according to Richard Wolffe, this was not the main reason why the campaigns were a success. “There was little doubt that Chicago was far better organized and technologically advanced than the McCain team.” Daniel Kreiss, analysed the use of Twitter in the Obama versus Romney campaign and spoke to staffers from either candidate. According to the report, “staffers from both campaigns discussed how they used the platform to influence the stories that journalist’s report on and planned strategic communication surrounding political events such as debates.” (Marx)

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In comparison to the structured approach Obama/Romney campaign, Trump’s campaign on Twitter was, often controversial and never seemed to be planned or organised, but the results of the election spoke for itself. Trump often used to site to reveal his version of events and to call certain people out on their wrongdoings. The President himself has praised the site by saying, “Twitter does allow me to go around the dishonest media,” “I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract” (Bai) According to Svensson (2014) “argued that there are three rationales for politicians to use social media: voters targeting, communicative deliberations and images negotiations. “ (Bai) Thus making Twitter one of the most informative areas for a political campaign in recent years.

Whether for better or worse, Twitter has become a must have for people to communicate with others, including the President of the United States. However, it is up to the government to decide whether or not Twitter will become a more viable source for campaign strategies, especially as Twitter has now increased their character limit from 140 to 280 in certain areas of the world. (Romano) It is impossible to figure out where the world of politics will take Twitter in the future, especially for the 2020 Elections on the Horizon or even for our own Presidential Elections in a few years, needless to say it will be certainly be one to watch.

 

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