There's More to Influence on Twitter Than Being Famous

Al Gore, it's not really kosher Twitter etiquette to have 160,000+ people on your list and then only be interested in what two of them are tweeting.
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Who are the ten most influential people on Twitter -- the social media/micro-blogging service -- in Washington, D.C.? Top ten lists are always fun, but they're not always accurate.

D.C.'s wonky newspaper Politico announced its list of top ten "twitterers" (I'd suggest the term "tweeters") and I'm afraid I have to take issue with a lot of the choices. In recent months, Twitter has seen a surge in famous and notable people opening Twitter accounts and sharing tidbits from their lives or snippets of political or newsy insights in 140 characters or less. But having a famous name or reputation does not a good Twitter community member make. Those deeply involved in social media today know that.

The Politico list includes some people who could be fab at the Twitter machine -- Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, Meet the Press host David Gregory, former VP and almost-President Al Gore. The top ten are all interesting people, but many are missing the point of the Twitter community.

Claire McCaskill only "follows" one person, yet over 8,000 want to read her thoughts. More than 69,000 people want to read what David Gregory says, but he's only interested in about 80 of them, mostly his colleagues and other news people. And Al Gore, it's not really kosher Twitter etiquette to have 160,000+ people on your list and then only be interested in what two of them are tweeting.

Apparently someone hasn't clued in these high profile tweeters into what social media is about. It isn't like traditional news or political outreach. Until a few years ago, MSM and those running for office followed a pattern -- put a message out there and hope that enough people will listen and be interested. No need to really interact or respond. Conversation was really at a minimum. And that's how these notables are approaching Twitter -- posting messages or amusing info, but not engaging in a real way with the community and their "followers."

So, that's why I have a little problem with the Politico's Top Ten list. The ten who were chosen might be high profile, each in their own way, but to really be a top ten Twitter user, more is needed than making one way noise.

"Social" media. Social is the key word and a lot of politicians and journalists who are trying to see what's up in the Twitter-sphere aren't getting that. The funny thing to me is this -- it ain't rocket science. None of these top ten D.C. tweeters would talk at their friends or colleagues in person. Yet, that's exactly what they're doing on Twitter.

So who is a top ten Tweeter in Washington, D.C. if not the list offered by Politico? I'll get back to you on a full list from the nation's capital, but a few models would be CNN commentator Leslie Sanchez, poet Maya Angelou, and political strategist Joe Trippi -- they all follow a fair percentage of those who follow them, they offer interesting thoughts in addition to posts that promote their personal agendas and, yes, they put themselves out there in a more personal way and actually interact with those who want to read their "tweets."

It's really not that difficult. But if so many high profile people can't "get" 140 characters worth of social interaction, it's no wonder much about the mainstream media and politics are doomed. Norah O'Donnell, 28 out of 1255? You can do better than that. Take a page from your colleague David Shuster. Or better yet, check out uber-social media maven Guy Kawasaki.

So, for those notables who really want to do well on Twitter, trust my advice. If you do, it will be eye-opening, informative and well worth your while. Plus, you might actually get something out of the experience in return.

Joanne Bamberger is a professional writer and political/media analyst & consultant in Washington, D.C. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the political blog, PunditMom. You can also find her at BlogHer, where she is a Contributing Editor, and MOMocrats.

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