Social Media Slacking after Weinergate

Note: There’s some uncertainty to the future of the Beltwiki blog that I was writing at. For now I will post my back here on my blog. This was written for this past Monday.

It was a pretty slow week for social media news on the Hill ever since Rep. Anthony Weiner’s nightmarish press conference. This is completely understandable. It’s like when you see someone get pulled over for speeding on the highway. You always drive a bit slower for a while, even if you weren’t speeding to begin with. Consciously or unconsciously, no one wants to make any social media news right now. Tweetcongress reported that social media usage by members of Congress was down about 28 percent in the this past week, as compared to the week before. The Hill has an excellent graphic with their story showing the downturn. More from the LA Times.

In the wake of the Weiner scandal, The Huffington Post published an article about Washington’s “fake Twitterati.” Parody or spoof accounts of other people have been around Twitter nearly since its inception, but recent addition to the DC culture actually make for some good reading. There are old favorites like @fakesarahpalin and @mayoremanuel (whose creator has a book coming out this fall). Some newcomers are parody anonymous Capitol Hill staffers satirizing Beltway insiders’ habits, such as @hillstaffer and @dcskintern. Their anonymity makes it difficult to determine if they are actually Hill staffers. We need some verification, maybe from another Congressman, that they are in fact staffers.

Then there is the entire faux staff and President(s) from the hit show West Wing – almost every character from the seven-season run has its own parody Twitter account, and the writers take it relatively seriously. But there’s also a lot of commentary on current political events from the eyes of those characters – a very interesting literary/political angle that Twitter provides. The series’ main character, President Barlet, has 17,000 followers, more than all but a handful of actual congressional offices – and he uses his bully pulpit. Just this past Sunday, on and off again fictional couple Charlie Young and Zoey Bartlet got married, and all the old familiar characters West Wing fans know and loved “attended” the wedding and tweeted about it, with it’s very own hashtag #BartletYoung2011.

As I mentioned last week, the White House asked its social media followers to fill out a survey on White House social media use. The White House has released some of the results. The Facebook audience is older than the Twitter one, and the Twitter audience is much more likely to use Facebook than vice-versa. The majority of followers think the content is just right or not enough, and less than 5 percent think there is too much content. The most-requested content is breaking news, followed by interactive posts – “ways to engage with Administration officials, announcement of live streams, quotes from major speeches as they happen” and the Photo of the Day.  Hill offices could easily apply the White House numbers to their own digital media strategies.

Jeffrey Levy had another excellent blog post last week. Levy, the EPA’s director of web communications, wrote about federal agencies getting a start in social media. He found that while the EPA’s interactive Twitter account gained 30,000 followers in 16 months, their automated news RSS Twitter account grew by 10,000.  Interactive is better, but there are still plenty of users who just want news. “There are plenty of people who are perfectly happy just receiving information from government agencies in the online places they already frequent. Not everyone is looking for more. If you can’t find the resources to go gold, at least try tin and see what happens.”

BYTES

The Obama administration is funding startup internet “detours” to help insurgents and rebels get around censors in the Middle East. Of course, one of the main points of this technology is to allow inhabitants of the internet stricken areas to have access to social media.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords office used Facebook to release the first official pictures of the Congresswoman since she was shot in January. We wish her a continued speedy recovery.

Speaker John Boehner tweeted his choice for a golf partners his golf partner when he hits the links the President Obama and Vice President Biden next Saturday. Their fourth will be Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). He also created a new hashtag,  for  the event: #nomulligans has gained traction.

Because @maoyremanuel is a parody account, the real Mayor Emanuel had to find a different handle to use. His office settled on @ChicagosMayor.

Josh Shpayher is a contributing blogger at WhoRunsGov and the creator of GovSM.com. His posts appear every Monday. You can reach him at josh@govsm.com or follow him on Twitter @joshpolitico and @govsm.

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