May 7, 2012
For better or worse, Twitter has become the center of the political conversation, transforming how campaigns and journalists work. As Adweek.com reports, the social network’s rising importance in political coverage reflects its rapid growth. It took Twitter more than three years to generate 1 billion tweets, a volume it now processes every three days. As of March, the company reportedly had 140 million active users, now pumping out roughly 340 million new tweets every day.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that just 2 percent of Americans receive regular campaign news from Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped newsrooms across the country from bending to the micro-blogging network’s will, Adweek.com reports. Like many young journalists, Ethan Klapper, 22, who covers social media and politics for The Huffington Post, was thrust into his elevated position largely thanks to his fluency in monitoring Twitter. “When it comes to the real-time news/debate element, Twitter reigns supreme,” he says.
Says Vincent Harris, a Republican digital strategist, “People on Twitter like the drama of campaigns. I think they’d be bored if there wasn’t this constant chatter.” For campaigns that means struggling to react quickly and dominate public opinion, while also worrying that anyone with access to the campaign’s Twitter account could instantly tell a million people whatever they want to say. “And once it’s out there, it’s out there,” Harris says. “It could be 140 characters that nails the coffin.” — Greg Beaubien