WASHINGTON – If New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter-induced scandal and resignation gave members of Arizona’s congressional delegation pause about their own social media activity, they’re not showing it.
Staffers said Weiner’s situation was unusual, to say the least, and has no relation to how they use social media. They said their offices have not changed social media policies — whether that’s about postings about boring legislation or tweets about Snooki, Angry Birds or a congressman’s dog.
“We are not letting this affect the way we reach out or use social media,” said Hannah Loy, press assistant to Rep. Paul Gosar. She said there have not been any discussions in the Flagstaff Republican’s office about the Weiner incident or any directive to change social media strategy up.
“You just have to act professional and yet still be organic,” Loy said. “You’re a federal employee. Carry yourself like one.”
And while not everyone in the delegation is active, some get high marks from social media analysts for their creative use of the new media. That cannot be said of everyone in Congress.
Capitol Hill Tweet Watch Editor K. Daniel Glover, who runs a newsletter and Twitter account dedicated to social media inside the Beltway, thinks it is a good thing so many in Congress are reaching out. He said most members of the House and Senate now have Twitter accounts.
“Over the last few years, a lot of new people have been put in on staffs,” to help with social media outreach, Glover said. “The House freshman class cut their teeth on the campaign trail with social media. Now, they’re using it while in office.”
But Glover said the majority of lawmakers still don’t understand how to use social media.
“They’re downright boring,” Glover said. “You don’t regurgitate press releases. It’s not going to get you followers because they’re not engaging.”
One way to engage, he said, is to show some personality, something that can be hard when working for a government with a multiplicity of rules, traditions and regulations.
Glover said Arizona has its own political role models in social media: Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale, and Republican Sen. John McCain.
McCain, a former presidential candidate, has an astounding 1.7 million Twitter followers. He tweets about important happenings in Congress and what he’s doing in the Senate, and takes pictures and tweets them from the various locations he visits.
But the 74-year-old senator has drawn much attention for his penchant for actually responding to followers, whether it’s a constituent or Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the “Jersey Shore” reality star he tweeted to in June 2010.
“@Sn00ki u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed,” McCain tweeted in response to an increase tanning bed taxes. “Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. But I do rec wearing sunscreen!”
Glover said McCain “took to Twitter remarkably well for someone who originally didn’t sound technologically astute. . . . even though he’s older, he’s done very well.”
It is not clear whether McCain personally tweets everything on his senatorial account, but Glover believes that “at least most of it” is from him and not a staffer. McCain aides did not return calls to comment on the senator’s social-media use.
Flake, who is known for his aggressive stance on earmarks and pork-barrel spending, attempts to draw followers in by working in pop culture references, Glover said, like his reference to the smartphone game Angry Birds.
“NEA now classifies video games as art, eligible for grants. Hmmm. This should make for some angry birds in Congress,” Flake tweeted on May 12. A staffer said Flake does the majority of his office’s tweets himself.
Schweikert likes to incorporate a glimpse of his personal life in his tweets. Recently, he’s been using the hash tag #charlietakesDC to let followers in on the adventures of the family dog.
Loy said Gosar does not tweet himself, but is active in listening on social media channels. She said the freshman congressman sees social media as a perfect avenue to reach constituents in the far-flung 1st District.
“He made it clear to us that this is a great way to reach out, and listen to the district,” Loy said. “Social media reaches different people in different ways. It’s a way for him to connect with people when he can’t be in Arizona.”