WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressional Republicans, with Rep. Michele Bachmann leading the charge, have taken to Twitter, claiming the social networking site in a measure of dominance not seen outside talk radio, according to a study (PDF) released today on lawmakers’ Twitter usage.
With more than 12,000 followers, Bachmann has by far the highest Twitter follower count among Minnesota lawmakers in Washington who use the site and is the fifth-most-popular feed among all House members.
“Congresswoman Bachmann has been a trendsetter on the Hill through her embrace of new media technologies,” Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok said. “She especially loves Twitter and sees it as yet another innovative way for constituents to share their thoughts and opinions with her, as well as a means to share the work she’s doing in Washington with them.”
“Today, it’s not enough to just send out a press release, hope a newspaper picks up the story, and hope that her constituents read it,” Dziok said. “You need to use all means possible to get your message out there.”
By far the most dominant member of Congress, in terms of followers on Twitter, is Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, with more than 1.5 million followers. Apart from him, the largest congressional feeds have more than 10,000, with most in the low thousands.
“Not only is there a story in the fact that Republicans are leading in their use of microblogging, but the magnitude of their reach over Democrats is also large, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives,” wrote study author Mark Senak, a Washington-based attorney and author of the popular news blog Eye on FDA. “Republicans send out more tweets and have the attention of many more people than do the Democrats.”
That said, Twitter usage is hardly universal. Just half of Minnesota’s 10-member congressional delegation maintains an official Twitter feed. Most tweets are typed by staff communications specialists, with the occasional member interaction. Rep. Keith Ellison is the exception there, largely handling his own feed.
I should note that while feed followers is a good metric to judge popularity, one shouldn’t take any numbers to the bank. Tech blogger Anil Dash, who is listed as having more than 300,000 followers himself, notes that many followers of the biggest feeds are simply computer-automated robot accounts or people who merely clicked on a “follow” button but don’t really follow any conversation, in the traditional definition of the word.
The survey is fairly comprehensive, save for one major omission: Sen. Al Franken. Minnesota’s junior senator has 4,190 followers monitoring his feed of mostly press releases and links to news reports on his initiatives. Oddly enough, The Hill’s otherwise-comprehensive congressional Twitter list omits Franken as well.
Franken’s office may have something to say — or tweet — about that.
Here are Minnesota lawmakers ranked by number of Twitter followers:
Rep. Michele Bachmann: 12,078
Rep. Keith Ellison: 5,018
Sen. Al Franken: 4,190
Rep. Erik Paulsen: 2,774
Rep. Jim Oberstar: 2,126
To follow them all simultaneously, I’ve organized a list of all the Minnesota congressional Twitter accounts, along with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Sen. Norm Coleman and official state political party feeds. Follow along here.