WHEN Barack Obama used Twitter as a potent campaign tool last year, Filipino politicians took notice. Now, with national elections just a few months away, a number of them, too, have their own accounts with the popular micro-blogging service.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) enables members to post short messages called tweets, no more than 140 characters at a time, to tell everybody else on the network what they are doing or thinking at the moment. Created in 2006, the free service has grown immensely popular in the last few months. In fact, the social media research outfit Sysomos found that of the 11.5 million Twitter accounts (as of May 2009), 72.5 percent belonged to users who joined during the first five months of 2009.
In the Philippines, thousands of users have taken to Twitter. As of Oct. 25, Twitterholic.com (http;//twitterholic.com) was tracking 9,501 users in the country; TwitDir (http://twitdir.com) counted 6,941.
To nobody’s surprise, a small subset of these Twitter accounts belong to politicians.
Among those with presidential and vice presidential ambitions, seven have active accounts: Senator Noynoy Aquino (noynoyaquino); Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay (jejomarbinay); Senators Chiz Escudero (SayChiz), Loren Legarda (loren_legarda) and Mar Roxas (MARoxas); Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (giboteodoro); and Senator Manny Villar (ManuelVillar). Add two more, if we still count Bayani Fernando (bayanifernando) and Vice President Noli de Castro (vpkabayan), who have been awfully quiet about their plans for 2010.
There is also a Twitter account called erapestrada, but with no posts or tweets, it is difficult to say if it really belongs to deposed president Joseph Estrada, who recently announced he would run again for president next year.
President Arroyo, who may no longer run for the top office next year, also has an unofficial Twitter site (presgma) that carries headline summaries of her activities.
Among the country’s 23 senators, 10 have Twitter accounts. Aside from those already mentioned, there are Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (SJPE), who at age 85 must be one of the oldest Twitter users in the country; and Senators Pia Cayetano (piacayetano), Ping Lacson (PingLacson) and Kiko Pangilinan (kikopangilinan).
There is also an account under Senator Bong Revilla’s name (bongrevillajr), but like the Estrada account, this one doesn’t have a single tweet.
A good measure of a Twitter user’s popularity is the number of followers he has. By this yardstick, Roxas was the most popular as of Oct. 25 (with 15,027 followers), followed by Aquino (14,446), Escudero (13,392), Cayetano (7,160), Pangilinan (4,376); Teodoro (3,244); Binay (1,326); Legarda (601); Villar (511); and Fernando (414).
In terms of activity, Escudero has posted the most number of messages (1,704), followed by Teodoro (986); Cayetano (833); Mrs. Arroyo (401); Pangilinan (259); Binay (231); Roxas (229); Fernando (129); Legarda (32) and Enrile (29).
Among politicians, Roxas was the earliest to get on Twitter (Jan. 11) while Angara was the newest addition (Oct. 14). Aquino joined on Sept. 27, after the outpouring of sympathy over his mother’s death catapulted him from nowhere to the forefront of next year’s presidential race.
Of course, the numbers tell only part of the story. They do not say anything about the quality of the posts.
Josh Sternberg, who runs a media relations and crisis management firm, says politicians need to create a conversation with their constituencies and use social media as part of a broader communications strategy. They are also most effective when they keep things personal.
“Ultimately, the strongest aspect of social media is the human element. Social media doesn’t exist without people acting on their inherent need to be social, to interact, and to see each other as human beings,” Sternberg writes.
Some local politicians already know this and write messages that reveal something of themselves. They not only talk about their advocacies, but also create a conversation by responding to comments.
“A grand reception would’ve been nice... but more food, clothes and slippers to those who’ve lost everything would mean so much more,” wrote Roxas on Oct. 13, after canceling his wedding banquet so that the money could go to help flood victims.
Cayetano sent this message from London that clearly did not come from an aide: “Did a slow run in scenic hyde park and kensington park. Saw the fountain built in memory of princess diana. Beautiful.”
Escudero showed he experiences technical difficulties like everybody else when he posted this: “Been having network problems with both smart and globe the past three days. Does anyone know why... Tnx!”
Others who seem to do their own tweets and who respond to comments are Binay, Legarda and Pangilinan.
On the other hand, the administration’s standard bearer, Teodoro, and his erstwhile rival for the party nomination, Fernando, seem to use Twitter mainly as a megaphone for news updates.
Neither Aquino nor Enrile have responded to any tweets. Read the original article here http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideBusop.htm?f=2009/october/27/chinwong.isx&d=2009/october/27
Tags: twitter philippines, politicians philippines twitter accounts, Binay twitter, Legarda twitter, Pangilinan.twitter