I had just finished speaking at the annual dinner of the Arizona Policy Council when Jeremy approached me with an appeal that I "Twitter more."
For the way behind, Twitter.com is a rapidly expanding tech tool for social networking that limits messages to 140 characters. A beginners' guide is available from David All. (And a conversation with David All, Rob Neppell and Patrick Ruffini on the tech gap between the GOP and the Dems is here.)
Like my Townhall.com colleague Matt Lewis, I am a "late adapter" to Twitter, which means a few million people started using it first, but no matter. What matters, especially in politics, is recognizing the truth in the cliche "Better late than never." When it comes to politics and communication, you don't stay off the second bus because you missed the first one, especially if they all arrive in 2010 at the same time.
A couple days back I asked people following me at Twitter, where I maintain two accounts under hughhewitt and hhradio, who they were and why they wanted to receive my "tweets." The responses underscore the incredible variety of people and motives that have fueled Twitter's explosive growth.
Many are simply looking for show updates --which guests are coming on, which allows for appointment listening or easy selection among podcasts.
Many others want a different sort of communication, though, one that moves outside of the content of the radio program into ideas and experiences that don't make it onto air. Others are using the feeds to advance the online activism they find crucial to the future. Blogger DenverInTranslation.com bemoans that the GOP "is simply not connected."
"I have an iPhone, 2 MacBook Pros, a blog, a Twitter, a Facebook, five active e-mail accounts and an unhealthy addiction to Google Reader," he explained. I know a lot of young connected Republicans who are just like me."
But, he added, "the Republican party made it quite clear (whether intentional or not) that they rellly don't care about our demographic. The Obama camp released a free iPhone app to energize and get out his vote. When I didn't see one from the McCain campaign within a week, I knew it was over."
SquareMethod.com explained his use of Twitter focuses on its "immediacy":
I frequently send out Tweet to let people know where I am. I have my Facebook account set up to automatically feed my Tweets into my Facebook status update and thereby let all my friends get an immediate update in case they are in the same area. It has frequently happened that, while traveling, I post my location and have people email or Tweet me back with an offer of coffee or dinner.
The rising demographic, as noted in the must-read Millenium Makeover, values this sort of interaction much more highly than does the 40+ generation, which means that within ten years, the dominant communication paradigms will have significantly shifted, changing most of the economic marketplace and certainly the political.
Matt Lewis notes the political consequences of the new style of communication:
Because Twitter allows users to send free (and often anonymous) updates, activists are now empowered to quickly spread information -- and to mobilize supporters -- via their mobile phone. I tend to believe that while this medium is quite valuable for those of us living in a fairly safe, free society, it is even more important for those facing either hostile regimes, or during times of crisis. Twitter is, by design, a revolutionary technology which can be effectively used to resist political oppression by spreading information quickly. Twitter is essentially the AK-47 of communication – it’s simple, effective, and anyone can use it. Technology, of course, is philosophically neutral – meaning it works equally well for the good guys and for the bad guys. Still, one can imagine that “Paul Revere’s ride” might have been “Paul Revere’s Tweet” if it were to happen in modern times.
"I'm an internet marketing profession," wrote Matt Keough, "so I'm interested in how center-right viewpoints are presented in social media."
Not very often or very well is probably the best summation of that subject, but of course there is plenty of time to change. "Hugh, it's a shame you didn't collect these responses on Twitter! You could have asked for 'direct messages' and then had your Twitter account forward those messages to your email box," wrote a "web communications specialist for the Ontario government in Canada.
Live and learn. As the GOP and every major seller-of-anything-to-anyone should be doing.
Older folks who grump about bemoaning the spelling that dominates text messaging or the brevity and lack of paragraphs in Tweets are complaining themselves into political irrelevance.
The two best marketing gurus I know personally are Jonathon Bock at Grace Hill Media and Mark DeMoss at the DeMoss Group. Both men and their teams are always monitoring the explosion of new media with an eye towards harnessing every new form to the interests of their clients. You can be assured that they are focused already on the impact and future uses of Twitter.The heads of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Pete Sessions and John Cornyn respectively, as well as whomever ends up running the RNC ought to gather Bock, DeMoss, All, Neppell and Ruffini in a room with their staffs on a monthly basis to learn and refine the tools of the new media age. When Congressman Sessions, Senator Cornyn and Chairman-to-be-named later are sending out Tweets that actually convey key info on candidates and races for 2010, I'll know the GOP has turned the technological corner.