Lessons from the Capitol Tweets Study

Edelman’s Capitol Tweets study, an analysis of data provided by Simply Measured, may not be on your radar if you’re tweeting about your pharmaceutical startup or your eldercare franchise. The study looks at months’ worth of tweets by hundreds of legislators, and social media for politics is not the same as social media in general.

But the study definitely has useful information to offer. After all, it’s months’ worth of tweets by hundreds of tweeps, and you don’t see a deep analysis of that kind of data in social media often. Since all the accounts are in the same industry and working toward the same goals (votes and thought leadership), comparisons of the methods and tactics they used are more useful than broader aggregations of data, but the sample size is large enough to be meaningful.

Specifically, it’s 59,270 tweets from 456 Twitter handles with a combined total of 5,184,182 followers, captured over 112 days — an average of 130 tweets per handle, with a total of 1,312,861 mentions.

So just what did Capitol Tweets discover? In case you missed it, here are the takeaways we think will be most useful to our readers.

All tweeps are not created equal

First of all, there were definite differences in levels of engagement and reach. Just as some industries tend to get more traction than others in social media, Republicans were ahead of Democrats and those from the Northeast had an advantage over those from the South.

If you’re tracking social media results for your veterinary practice, don’t get your benchmarks from rock musicians. You’re not the same. That doesn’t mean that every rock musician will get more Twitter love than every vet, but it does mean that the figures you see that don’t include industries and demographics should be taken with a grain of salt.

Quantity matters

So why did the Republicans get better results? For one thing, they tweeted 30% more than the Democrats. In fact, they did everything more than Democrats: rich media, links, hashtags, static content — you name it, the GOP tweeters were more generous than the Dems.

We like to think that quality is more important than quantity, but there’s something to be said for getting your thoughts out there. Your readers are not carefully savoring every tweet you put out there, so more tweets means more exposure to more people. Filling up people’s streams used to be an issue when there were fewer Twitter accounts, but now there’s so much variety in the average person’s Twitter stream that even your best friend probably doesn’t see most of your tweets. Keep ’em coming!

Time matters, too

Members who tweeted in the morning got more mentions than those who waited till later in the day. For most of our clients, we know, the most visible pattern includes a tweet in the morning, another at lunch, and another toward the end of the workday when people are starting to slow down and are open to distractions like Twitter.

This is the same pattern Congressional members followed as a group, but the members who didn’t get tweets out in the morning were less likely to be retweeted and less likely to receive @ mentions.

Know your industry and your audience

One reason tweeting in the morning might have been a plus for politicians is that getting the news out early made them more valuable. The early birds essentially scooped the others, something that matters more in politics than in other fields.

There were also differences in the best practices that turned up in this list and those social media professionals usually list. For example, conversations didn’t do as much for these political tweeps as they are usually expected to do — possibly, the researchers thought, because fewer readers are following both sides of the conversations. That is, when Rep. Don Young tweets to Rep. Grijalva, only followers of both will see the conversation. If people usually follow only their own reps, those conversations will not be seen. In some ways, each member of the House and Senate may have his or her own community, with less overlap than people in the same field usually have.

So you need to know the special things about your particular field.

In sum, this large study of tweets confirmed some basic truths, most of which I’m listing below with direct quotes from the Edelman’s presentation:

  • “Tweet regularly.”
  • “Tweet links to relevant and compelling content.”
  • “Be sweet and retweet.” This is not a quote from the report. I don’t know who said it first, but it’s a more memorable phrasing.
  • “Use hashtags” so people interested in your topic can find you easily.
  • Be specific. For members of the legislature, this means they should tweet about specific legislation. For you, it means you can’t add value to a discussion with broad generalizations.

But the study also confirms that there is no one-size-fits-all for social media. “Tweet about specific legislation” may not be good advice for people in fitness and nutrition.  You have to know your community.

And, as always, check your own data before you make decisions based on third-party data. If you’re not sure how to capture, analyze, or use your own data, we’re happy to help. Contact us.

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