University of Erfurt Erfurt School of Public Policy Course: Network Politics Lecturer: Phillipp Müller Summer Term 2009

Twitter - Campaigning:

The usage of Social media in contemporary political campaigns

Written by: Moritz Borchardt (Student Nr: 23506) Mühlhäuser Straße 2 99092 Erfurt Phone: 0361 2192427 Email:

6. 2. 4. Statistical Data . Introduction The professional use of Twitter The problem of authenticity Measuring success in Twitter German parties using Twitter Conclusion and Recommendation 1 2 3 4 5 7 Annex: Sources. 3.Index 1. 5.

Having been a relatively secluded part of internet-society at first. In enabling this newfound way of communicating. politics and social life. consisting of blogs. The intention of this paper is to observe the possibilities of using Twitter for political ends and the extent to which Twitter is being used by established German parties.1 I. one article will describe the general problem of authenticity that is inherent to any social media. In addition. In the final part of this paper. which implies the capability of changing broad areas of both professional and personal life. The most crucial aspect of this mentality is the emphasis on openness in every part of society. These new services expanded the possible modes of virtual communication from comparatively slow articles directed at a limited target group to real-time updates and the (digital) public at led to various new possibilities for actors in the economy. It was eventually fueled and extended by the release of Facebook in 20041 and Twitter in 20062. 1 http://www. the presented argument will be summarized and a recommendation for future political actors will be given on account for the given data. especially concerning entrepreneurial outreach and political communication. Introduction With the emergence of social media in the last ten years. This development of a read-write culture in the internet.facebook. the first use of Twitter in an electoral campaign took place in the hessian elections in early 2009. Furthermore. In doing .0. both Facebook and Twitter created numerous ways of promotion. The potential use of social media for political campaigns became obvious when Barack Obama led his 2008 presidential campaign using the tools of the web and in doing won seemingly apolitical people into joining his cause. professional ways. the world witnessed the rise of a whole new school of thought. In Germany. an article will observe the general use of Twitter by German political parties. newsgroups etc. social media became more and more well known with the establishment of the web 2.php?factsheet 2 https://twitter. initially there will be a short overview about Twitter itself and its potential to be used in corporate. that was the first after Obamas success via social media. This will be followed by a short overview of success in social media and its measurement in microblogs like Twitter.

2 II. events made public and internal meetings be 5 Alex Cheng et al. which almost certainly will have some influence on their 4 http://www. in using mircoblogs.sysomos. By this. The API allowed programmers to create applications. First of all. 3 (2009) . it was possible to tweet from virtually any digital medium as long as there was an application to do so.15 Million users to 11. errors can be detected before they inflict damage and the gap between professionals and 'the people' decreases. The second possible approach of using microblogs is to get feedback through communicating with customers and the interested public.3 Microblogging and Twitter got remarkable publicity during the first months of 2009. So.: Inside Twitter http://www. Twitter eventually introduced sending updates via text messaging. so that it can be used from virtually anywhere. In doing so short term changes can be announced. when it was used in various occasions such as the emergency landing of a plane in Hudson River. professionals can gain new possibilities of quick and variable outreach as well as new channels of communication with the audience. its users were a small community of inter-connected people that developed slowly but surely. By practicing this second use. it can be used for outreach and as the actor and the public sphere behave around each other. 4 Following up to these events. In political practice it is currently popular to use Twitter as a short-term newsletter for any occasion. Twitter can be used in a twofold manner. The professional use of Twitter When Twitter was first released in March 2006. This feature enabled users to twitter from a variety of platforms. as will be seen in the course of this paper. even via competing products like Identi. which use Twitter as an integral part or even embed Twitter to websites. A crucial aspect to the success of Twitter was its application programming interface (API).5 Concerning both professional and political actors. So. critical opinions are presented and can be discussed. both professional and personal branding can take place.techcrunch. to promote new products or political statements.5 Million within the first five months of 2009 with a peak of growth in March 2009. Twitter grew from 3.

a hack on musician Britney Spears's account announced her dead on june 29th. the account was tolerated by the SPD. or not. Apart from being well or mal intended. Berliner Zeitung. nor falsified its authenticity.3 III. these persons of interest will have to gain the trust of their followers by behaving in a credible way.fcgi/2008/0913/seite1/0091/index.1518. that neither verified.7 This feature has the chance of increasing the credibility of Twitter-accounts although the process of verification has not yet been disclosed. As soon as they reach a certain level of popularity. in all possibility those might be fake or written by one of the person's employees. html 7 Pete Cashmere: Twitter Launches Verified Accounts http://mashable. users of microblogs will have to be skeptical but willing to trust politicians and other people of public interest to be who they claim to be.8 Still being in a beta-version of Verified Accounts. Not doing any damage to the One case of a fake-account that tricked the public into believing that it was real was @muentefering that claimed to be the Twitter-account of the head of Germany's social-democratic party (SPD).html 9 Sacha Lobo: Twitpic-Sicherheitslücke Even though some politicians may be able to create a reputation of tweeting themselves.bin/dump. 6 Marin Majica: Aus dem Herzen der SPD. Berlin 2008 http://www. In the end.6 Being aware of this problem. Franz Mü 8 Richard Meusers: Twitter plant Gütesiegel für Promis http://www.00. Twitter launched a beta-version of 'Verified Accounts' in mid June 2009.629147. The problem of authenticity Apart from these chances that Twitter offers to anyone willing to use it. every tweet of public persons who actually use microblogs can be put into question because it can never be fully solved whether someone is twittering himself. political actors are likely to have fake-accounts using their name. politicians who use it have to face the problem of authenticity.berlinonline.9 This shows that even presumably safe accounts can still be manipulated. On the other . Governing officials most likely have fake-accounts driven by the political opposition that are publishing satirical updates contrary to the person’s personal opinion.

One possible option to increase transparency would be. the existing concept needs to be extended by the aspect of influence on other users. the basic statistical patterns are sometimes unclear. Measuring success in Twitter General success in Twitter can be described by the size of one users incoming and outgoing contacts as well as his frequency of twittering. The most valuable datasets that can be used nonetheless are from . or use approaches that cannot be effectively used in combination with different statistics. to maintain public interest over time. Concerning political campaigning via Twitter. there are only few services that use them and even if so. it might be near to impossible for some of them to regularly tweet themselves and thus. In doing so. Furthermore. but instead is often exercised through commenting on abbreviated tweets or @user references to discuss recent matters like political press-releases etc. to indicate the origins of tweets by adding hints to updates by the staff. there are naturally few statistical surveys that include most of the first half year 2009. yet still not sufficient. Depending on the rank of twittering politicians. delegating the use of Twitter or tweeting indirectly can be the obvious choice for public actors to make. though. This can be visualized by measuring retweets. but also the communicative behavior in terms of @usermessages sent and received by accounts are of major importance to display interconnectivity.. Mobilization does not just happen via forwarding other user's tweets. Consequently this paper cannot claim to be statistically correct or deliver highly consistent data. not just the extent of the network. The statistical applications scarcely go beyond the measurement of average tweets per day and the relative amount of @user replies. the public would be informed about the origin of tweets. or tweet via ghostwriter and still be 'authentic'. IV. but in the same time. Additionally.4 Another question to be posed in this context is if politicians can delegate the use of mircoblogs. Given these presuppositions. the statistical tools and existing data of the web (in early July 2009) are insufficient for scientific research. Regarding retweets. Also. which is technically simple. the accounts in question would still be able to frequently communicate with the public in the name of its owner. in which Twitter grew significantly and so cover the even more public months of tweeting and being (re-)tweeted .

com. which carry out the party’s values and are the most common use of contemporary German Twitter-campaigning and can be estimated at 50 percent of the overall of German political tweets send by parties and non-private (2009) . During these and www. In practice. This option of communicating is closest to the ways of traditional media.retweetrank. and social-democratic candidate Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel (@tsghessen) made himself a brand by establishing the credibility of twittering himself. where breaking news and earlier special editions of newspapers were produced to keep the public up to date. but in the aftermath of the European elections in early June 2009. The second use of Twitter in virtual campaigns is making political statements within the 140 character-limit of Twitter.5 www. and can be combined to gain insights on single accounts. Twitter can be used to communicate political content. prohibiting long and abstract statements. They still lack the option of showing clusters of users in their respective twitter-environment and thus the possibilities of visualizing general influence on other users of Twitter. This limit forces political actors to make short comments.10 Theoretically spoken. Thus. This again stresses the point of basic uncertainty in digital societies. or act politically in three ways: First of all. this option of using Twitter politically was rarely used. it can be used as a newsletter that publishes political news and links to websites with further information. the first german elections where Twitter was used as a political tool were the electoral campaigns in Hessia in January 2009. German parties using Twitter The idea of using microblogs in political campaigns in Germany was inspired by Barack Obama's virtual campaigning during the 2008 presidential elections in the USA. so that it can be 10 Markus Beckedahl: Wenn Politiker mit Ghostwritern twittern http://netzpolitik. became more common. V. all major parties used Twitter for political outreach. these newsletters are used to make articles public. His authenticity was later damaged when one of his campaigning advisers updated his own account and @tsghessen with the exact same tweet within a very short time. In the first months of 2009.tweetstats.

. all of Germany's mayor parties have started to use Twitter regularly and created a wide range of accounts. Both the already mentioned @tsghessen and member of parliament @volker_beck (green party) are examples for microblogging politicians of status. Thirdly. but responded to other user's tweets in around about 30% of his tweets. Among the politicians actively using Twitter. there are representatives from all political levels and parties. local chapters or youth organizations of the present parties in parliament. These accounts are primarily used to inform about recent or upcoming campaigning events and to link to articles promoting the parties opinions. promote his affection to coffee and only uses it on rare occasions to give political statements like “Zu Guttenberg ist echt ein industriepolitisches Irrlicht. Being limited to personalized accounts (accounts that are used by politicians instead of party organs). These accounts can be divided into two kinds of accounts: The first kind of accounts belongs to party organs. Unverantwortliches Geschwaetz! ” (rough translation: Zu Guttenberg (german Federal Minister for Economy and Technology) is not to be taken seriously in terms of industrial . The second kind of accounts is held by individual politicians and used for both political outreach and personal comments. Twitter can be used to give status reports of politicians about where they are. politicians can share random details of their lives with the public and thus create emotional closeness with their supporters and talk about recent or upcoming events. he rarely posts links (with only one link from 15/04/09 to 15/05/09). this kind of tweeting can be estimated at 30% of active political tweets. @spdbawue or @JuLisThueringen. Examples for such are @cdu_news. what they do etc. That's irresponsible talk!)11. Never been so angry about a politician. @tsghessen uses Twitter mainly to post personal updates. Due to the many elections taking place in 2009. Differing from him. Additionally. he too has established himself in the German internet 11 http://twitter. Volker Beck uses Twitter mainly to interact with other users (more than 77% of his tweets from 15/04/09 to 15/05/09 are either @-responses or retweets) and barely posts status reports. In doing so. Selten so sauer auf einen Politiker gewesen.6 estimated at 20 percent of the overall of German political tweets send by parties and non-private persons. that use Twitter in different ways. by using Twitter in this way.

Tweeting newsletters or status reports is still very useful to share informations and inform about upcoming or recent events. but it is not. especially the green party. and youth-organizations throughout the landscape of politics. by discussing matters with and getting feedback from the public and also by stimulating the public into getting involved and actively convincing others.00.627936. that political campaigning via Twitter is still in a very early stage of development. private way like @tsghessen but creating a professional account that interacts with others and adds both links and statements for political outreach. Twitter itself suffers from the problem of due to its just recently discovered values and chances. as he not just posts random articles and links. 12 Spiegel-Online: Twittergate http://www. it is remarkable. Volker Beck is a very fitting example. These are things. In Germany.7 community and been using Twitter politically in a variety of ways by simply 'being online'. If political actors want to use social media to their benefit.1518. but actually uses Twitter to get feedback on his actions and political points of view. VI. when the results of the elections for the german president were first published via Twitter. Twitter is still not commonly used in ways that differ from traditional media newsletters or Facebook.12 Also. but not in a more personal.html . as the shortage of messages makes it near to impossible to discover well-made fake accounts. what makes Twitter yet not suprising. Although it has become well-discussed by other media.status reports. This could be seen in the so called german Twittergate. Twitter has still an aura of being dubious. This is the interaction with other users. which is inherent to any social media. they basically have to be online and interact with other users. than in other media. that german political parties have yet to learn when it comes to digital political communication and interaction. that consider themselves politically left. Conclusion and Recommendation This paper has shown. but is slightly more important in Twitter. especially in Twitter. even before they were officially announced. that Twitter is mainly used in interactive ways by political parties.

1518.8 Annex Sources: − − − − Alex Cheng et www.bin/dump.html − Twitpic-Sicherheitslücke Wenn (2009) − − − http://twitter. Berlin 2008 − Gütesiegel http://www.facebook.techcrunch.: Inside Twitter www.fcgi/2008/0913/seite1/0091/i − − − Pete Richard Sacha Markus Cashmere: Meusers: Lobo: Twitter Twitter Launches plant Verified für Accounts Promis http://mashable.berlinonline.629147. Berliner (2009) Marin Majica: Aus dem Herzen der SPD.php?factsheet .de/berlinerzeitung/archiv/.com/2009/06/29/twitpicmit Ghostwritern twittern sicherheitsluecke-britney-spears-falsche-todesmeldung/ − Beckedahl: Politiker http://netzpolitik.

or news .04.Retweets Links Status. political statement.05.Statements News 2 -ers Tweets Tweets1 reports 2 2 6/8/09 Volker Beck 3612 111 103 72 32 14 0 59 1 8 67 17 6 14 8 Thorsten 3335 SchäferGümbel 1 2 answers to multiple users in one tweet were counted as one non.09 Politician Follow Overall @user.09 to 15.9 Annex Statistical Data Statistical data of Volker Beck and Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel from 15.@user or re-tweets could be attributed to one or multiple of the categories: personal status-report.

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