Twitter policy mobilization? Not so fast.

Politicians and political campaigns regularly use Twitter to connect with their constituents. Recently some politicians have started to use Twitter to connect with other politicians’ constituents over policy issues with mixed results.

A couple of weeks ago President Barack Obama held a nationally televised press conference to ask the American people to support compromise legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. He asked the electorate to call their representatives to make it clear how important it was to avoid a national default. Obama failed to mention in this press conference that there was another contact method he supported: tweeting.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the White House instituted a communication initiative last week to educate the public on fiscal policy and urge bipartisan legislation through Twitter. Barack Obama’s Twitter account began posting the twitter handles of Republican legislators from across the country and urged their constituents to tweet towards a #compromise.

Obama’s account may have actually gone a little overboard with its policy mobilization strategy. The account tweeted nearly 100 times on July 29, mostly to post the Twitter handles of Republican legislators from Illinois to Florida. News outlets have reported that the initiative may have spurred a massive unfollowing of Obama’s Twitter accounts, with reports putting the exodus at between 33,000 and 40,000 followers in a single day.

Politicians should definitely use Twitter to help mobilize grassroots support but they must be careful about the spamming followers. Spread the communications initiative out over a week and focus on smaller geographical areas each day to avoid subjecting followers to a deluge of tweets. Obama’s #compromise Twitter initiative is an example of a great idea with a botched execution.

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