Politicians and social media is a good thing

By Annastazia Camarena

Twitter has come a long way since it was created in 2006 by co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.

Many of Twitter users may not know that the reason you can only express yourself in 140 characters is because it had to fit into a text message, being that this was the only way the first Twitter users could tweet. Today, Twitter is now available via mobile applications and online through twitter.com, as well as through SMS.

Twitter is an information network that connects its users to stories, news and people they find interesting. Those who decide to “follow” someone can receive instant updates without ever having to actually tweet. Businesses are encouraged to utilize Twitter to share product and service information and build relationships with customers and partners. However, the userbase is not composed only of businesses and young social butterflies; many of the world’s leaders have active Twitter accounts.

According to the Digital Policy Council, which has been analyzing how world leaders and institutions of government are using Twitter to connect with their citizenry since 2009, 75 percent of state are present on the social media. As of December 2012, 123 out of 164 countries have Twitter accounts in either their personal name or through an official government office. However, many of these leaders have not been Twitter users very long, from 2010 to 2012, 90 world leaders had joined Twitter (that’s a 55 percent increase in a mere two years).

So what are these world leaders and politicians tweeting about? In 2010, governments came up with the idea to openly engage citizens and global community with President Barack Obama’s open government directive; they do this in hopes to improve transparency and civic engagement. With more than 50 countries in cooperation and political activism on the rise, Twitter has become a place where your tweet has the potential to reach a world leader or go viral.

For Obama’s second inauguration, all 100 senators and 398 (90 percent) members of the House were on Twitter. As of now, there are 29 states with their entire delegation tweeting (both senators and all representatives); every state has at least 70 percent of its delegation tweeting. Not only are the Senate and almost the entire House tweeting, but the president, first lady and vice president are active members of Twitter. Although Obama admits he has never personally tweeted, he remains the most followed world leader on Twitter and his account is constantly updated by a member of his staff.

Many of these newcomers to Twitter instantly update their followers about upcoming bills, pressing issues and policies. Although it’s unlikely the entire Senate is composed of prolific tweeters, after investigation 30 of our senators were up to par, tweeting frequently throughout a week timespan while others only retweet and share links for self-promotion.

If you have a Twitter account, you can get real time updates of all things NIU at NIU’s verified Twitter account @NIUlive or join the thousand of followers who receive the latest scoop of news at @NIUNorthernStar. If country leaders are using twitter, maybe you should, too.