Adams, Amelia, & McCorkindale, Tina (2013). Dialogue and transparency: A content analysis of how the 2012 presidential candidates used Twitter. Public Relations Review, 39(4), 357-359.

This study conducted a content analysis of the Twitter pages of the 2012 presidential candidates to determine how they were using Twitter, if they were engaging in meaningful dialogue with their followers, and if they were being transparent. Tweets from February 1, 2012 through February 29, 2012 were coded. Overall, the candidates tweeted most about the economy, events, and specific primaries but failed to created meaningful dialogue with their followers. Some candidates were more transparent than others in regards to who was responsible for tweeting.

Every tweet (n = 605) between February 1, 2012 and February 29, 2012 from the Twitter pages of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama was analyzed.

Key Findings
1) Obama tweeted twice as much as any other candidate while Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum tweeted twice as much as Paul and Romney
2) Tweets about the economy (which encompassed tweets about unemployment, the budget, and taxes) were very common and were one of the top three most tweeted topics for all the candidates. However, other issues important to voters in 2012, such as healthcare, foreign affairs, and social issues, were some of the least tweeted topics
3) Candidates appeared to be using Twitter more to increase attendance at events and primaries than to inform constituents about relevant issues
4) Lack of transparency was an issue in the candidates’ Twitter pages as Obama’s Twitter account was the only one that clearly stated in his bio that his campaign staff was responsible for the content of the tweets and that tweets written by the President were signed accordingly
5) None of the candidates replied to Tweets, revealing that these political candidates were not using Twitter to create meaningful dialogue with their constituents. None of the candidates answered questions or addressed concerns

Implications for Practice
Twitter is a useful medium for political candidates to inform and converse with their followers. Candidates should tweet about topics that a wide variety of stakeholders are interested in, and not just events. Political campaigns should also engage with their constituents and answer questions, especially when the candidate asks questions or solicits opinions on issues. Lack of dialogue enforces the position that candidates are only interested in disseminating information and not engaging their followers. Campaigns should also include a disclaimer of who the person is tweeting on behalf of the organization to promote transparency in communication.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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