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Government of the tweeple: Your guide to Minnesota’s congressional delegation on Twitter

Egg pluribus unum.

How well do you know your representative? How about your senators? Ever met them in person?

Beyond that, do you know what’s most important to them? What are the issues that drive them every day to do a job that is, by most accounts, not a very pleasant one? Sure, you might read the occasional guest op-ed or catch an appearance on Almanac, but it can be hard to get a sense of who the people elected to represent you really are.

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Enter social media. For better or worse, services like Twitter allow public figures to instantly fire off their ideas and observations to thousands of people, who can respond in turn.

Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have embraced the medium, to varying degrees. While each member has a Twitter account, the way they use the social network — what they tweet about, how much they interact with other users, the frequency of their updates — differs a lot.

From how often they Tweet to their favorite topics to the Twitter personality they most resemble, here’s what you can expect from the Twitter presences of Minnesota’s senators and representatives:

Sen. Al Franken (@alfranken)

  • Followers: 240,000
  • Following: 46,800
  • Tweet frequency: Once every few days
  • Favorite topics: Hillary Clinton, privacy and tech, his grandkids
  • Typical Tweet:
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Your liberal, #ImWithHer, Trump-hating uncle
  • You should follow if: You feel the need to follow a Minnesota celebrity

For Franken — the former comedian and writer — you’d think Twitter would be a slam dunk, an ideal platform to drop bite-sized bon mots. With the largest Twitter following in the delegation, by far, Franken certainly has the audience for it.

But those hoping for a steady stream of humor will be disappointed: the author of “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” has a pretty toned-down Twitter presence.

The jokes are few and far in between, and the two-term senator mostly focuses on business: his feed praises his preferred presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, hammers presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, and trumpets progress on issues he cares about, like privacy rights and the “Bug school” in northern Minnesota.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar)

  • Followers: 74,900
  • Following: 57,700
  • Tweet frequency: Several times a day
  • Favorite topics: Minnesota, people from Minnesota, things from Minnesota
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality she most resembles: Minnesota homer who tweets out every time we’re ranked #1 in something  
  • You should follow if: You want your finger on the pulse of Minnesota minutiae

More so than other members, Minnesota’s senior senator explains what’s happening on the Senate floor and how things may matter for her constituents.

Beyond that, if there is a development in Minnesota, significant or otherwise, Klobuchar’s Twitter is all over it. Did a lighthouse on Lake Superior get $70,000 from the federal government? Was a Chaska school teacher on Jeopardy? Is a Minnesota high school marching band playing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in two years? @amyklobuchar will answer these questions for you.

And the senator is good at using Twitter for self-promotion, whether it’s providing updates on bills she’s sponsored, plugging her recently-released book, or broadcasting meetings with prominent leaders. (Look, it’s Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!)

Rep. Tim Walz (@RepTimWalz)

  • Followers: 3,698
  • Following: 766
  • Tweet frequency: A few times a week, sometimes more
  • Favorite topics: Veterans, the military, farms
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Your enthusiastic high school football coach (who thinks you should definitely consider military service)
  • You should follow if: You want to be plugged into what Congress is and isn’t doing for veterans

For Minnesota’s U.S. House members, Twitter presences are a little more targeted, limited by the geographic extent of their districts and the handful of issues they typically focus on.

So, for the 1st District’s Tim Walz, there’s a lot of tweets on the military and veterans — he is a high-ranking Democrat on the veterans’ affairs committee — as well as on agriculture issues that concern his farming-heavy district.

Walz has got some interesting tweets in the mix, though, that give you a sense of his gregarious personality. He posted the moment when a group of high school students from his district randomly met the Prime Minister of Tibet in his office; he had some dispatches from the front lines of the Annual Congressional Football Game.

Walz might win for best foreign dignitary tweet: here he is with the Dalai Lama.

Rep. John Kline (@repjohnkline)

  • Followers: 8,390
  • Following: 1,796
  • Tweet frequency: A few times a week
  • Favorite topics: Ronald Reagan, the military, schools, military schools
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Republican loyalist who’s wistful about the good old days of the GOP
  • You should follow if: You’re nostalgic for Morning in America

The Education and Workforce Committee chair has been busy on Twitter lately, with credit-claiming on big developments in his purview, like the passage of a new K-12 education law.

While not quite a #tcot, Kline also uses Twitter to take shots at White House policies, from national security to special education.

The retiring congressman also takes opportunities to reminisce on Twitter about his long career in the Marines and his time serving in the Reagan White House. “When you were with him, it really was morning in America,” he recently tweeted.

Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen)

  • Followers: 12,900
  • Following: 2,174
  • Tweet frequency: Close to daily
  • Favorite topics: Medical devices, tax policy, the Vikings
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: That Vikes fan clogging up your feed
  • You should follow if: You want a little levity with your tax policy

The 3rd District’s Paulsen, who likes to project a tech-savvy image (to be fair, he’s one of a few members who uses emoji) is a fan of Twitter and Instagram, and he and his staff use both services often. He has the second-biggest following of Minnesota’s House members, and the most out of the three Republicans.

Beyond the standard fare, Paulsen tweets a lot about the medical device industry, a major sector in his district, and his effort in getting the tax on it suspended. His account got some wider play in January, when he posted a picture of himself with House of Cards’ Michael Kelly at the State of the Union address.

He doesn’t engage much with followers, but did engage in some football-related trash talk with Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Washington State over the Vikings’ playoff battle with the Seattle Seahawks.

Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04)

  • Followers: 7,670
  • Following: 867
  • Tweet frequency: Daily
  • Favorite topics: Indian affairs, national parks, international women’s and health issues
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality she most resembles: Your liberal friend who shares a lot of HuffPost articles
  • You should follow if: You’re looking for news on under-reported Indian issues

McCollum’s presence on Twitter is fairly straightforward: press releases, photos of constituent meetings, and a lot of material related to her position as a key House Democrat on Interior issues, primarily the environment and native affairs.

Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison)

  • Followers: 77,585
  • Following: 4,900
  • Tweet frequency: Several times a day
  • Favorite topics: Economic inequality, social justice, his podcast
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Your hip high school civics teacher
  • You should follow if: You want to see a politician use Twitter like a regular person

The Minneapolis Democrat is, by far, the delegation’s most distinctive presence on Twitter. Whereas communications staff usually handle the bulk of members’ posting, Ellison does most of his tweeting himself. And he does it a lot: with over 16,400 tweets to his name, he’s three times as prolific as the next most frequent tweeter, Klobuchar.

If you’ve ever listened to Ellison, you’ll notice his Twitter feed sounds an awful lot like he does. He tweets articles he thinks are bad (“Oh Please!”), “shouts out” players on the Minnesota Lynx, and sends out selfies he takes with people he meets. He recently tweeted out a picture of the bird feeders on his back porch.

This gets him cred with followers, who aren’t used to a U.S. congressman personally engaging with them on social media. Naturally, Ellison does plenty of arguing: he gets into it with conservatives over his liberal views, and last year, he had a few intense exchanges with protesters in the aftermath of the Jamar Clark shooting.

Twitter execs would probably be heartened to see how Ellison uses the platform, closely, perhaps, to how they intended: a way to bring elected officials closer to their constituents in some meaningful way.

The flip-side, which isn’t so fuzzy: Ellison routinely gets harangued for his defense of Muslims.

Rep. Tom Emmer (@tomemmer)

  • Followers: 4,883
  • Following: 1,482
  • Tweet frequency: Close to daily
  • Favorite topics: Meetings with constituents, government bureaucracy, high school sports
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Conservative hockey dad
  • You should follow if: You need a little more conservative flavor in your feed

The freshman 6th District representative is on Twitter often, both with a personal account and an official Congress account (@RepTomEmmer).

He uses the platform in the usual ways for a member of Congress, but he frequently posts criticism of the Obama administration, and particularly the Affordable Care Act.

Emmer, a former hockey standout, also might be the biggest booster of Minnesota high school athletics on Twitter. “You left it all on the ice,” he tweeted at St. Cloud’s Cathedral High School after a loss in the state hockey tournament.

Rep. Collin Peterson (@collinpeterson)

  • Followers: 880
  • Following: 290
  • Tweet frequency: Never
  • Favorite topics: A whole lot of nothin’
  • Typical Tweet:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Egg
  • You should follow if:  You want to follow more people, but don’t want to see more tweets

Though he’s 71, the Seventh District’s representative appears to have adopted a mantra popular among the coolest millennials: Never Tweet. He has no time for Twitter; the last time his account tweeted was election day 2014, respectfully asking for the votes of his constituents in the 7th District.

Anyway, Peterson has coasted to easy re-election 13 times, all without the help of social media. Maybe it’s the airplane.

Rep. Rick Nolan (@USRepRickNolan)

  • Followers: 5,630
  • Following: 1,057
  • Tweet frequency: A few times a week
  • Favorite topics: Mining, hating on trade deals, labor, the outdoors
  • Typical Tweet: 
  • Twitter personality he most resembles: Your other uncle who’s kinda feeling the Bern
  • You should follow if: You really hate the Trans-Pacific Partnership

At 72 years old, Nolan is the oldest member of the Minnesota delegation. He’s not sitting around tweeting himself, but his language sometimes shines through on his feed. Certainly, the issues he cares about do — many of his posts have to do with the mining and steel industry in his district, his opposition to international trade pacts, and support of labor unions.

If you want to see Nolan out and about ice fishing, his feed’s got that. Also, the time he met Shaq.