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President Trump’s Twitter Habit Is Leading Other Politicians to Pick Up Their Smartphones

3 minute read

As it happens, Rep. Ted Lieu had his own “covfefe” moment. Late at night on May 30, the California Democrat tweeted “Yrsvjseubpihfcovswtvnjhgfefesxnklimnq” by mistake.

And just like President Trump’s Twitter typo, Lieu’s gibberish tweet went viral, getting 22,000 likes on the social media site.

Such are the hazards of being a politicians who writes his own tweets. Just five years ago, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney required each of his tweets to be approved by 22 campaign staffers. Now, spurred on by Trump’s success, politicians of both parties are picking up their smartphones and doing the job themselves.

The difference is dramatic. The professionally written tweets tend to be safe, but dry, while the new crop of lawmaker-written tweets are saltier, funnier and occasionally goofier. In some cases, lawmakers have both types of accounts.

“I have a classy and polished office account: @RepTedLieu … and then there’s mine,” Lieu told TIME.

Now in his second term in the House, Lieu has become known for his outspoken tweets taking aim at Trump. In the last month, he has mocked Trump for being less popular than the Cleveland Browns, credited the President with creating “the most beautiful, bigly, best swamp ever in US history,” and shared a picture of a Congressional Research Service guide entitled “Impeachment and Removal.”

Lieu is emblematic of a growing trend among politicians to convey authenticity, even if that means they are a little rougher around the edges sometimes.

Teddy Goff, digital director for Obama’s 2012 campaign, senior advisor on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and co-founder of political consulting firm Precision Strategies, argues that authenticity has always been the goal of politicians’ social media activity.

He describes the social media staffs on the Obama and Clinton campaigns as “skeletal.” Their goal was to “make as much room for spontaneity” as possible, allow for “rapid approvals” and do “as few scheduled tweets as possible.”

On the Democratic side, Goff credits Lieu as well as Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Adam Schiff of California for their successes in creating “snappy, clever, compelling messaging” on social media. On the Republican side, he praises Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse for hitting the right tone.

Brittany Hunley, VP and Social Media Director at EP+Co—the branding and advertising firm that works with Denny’s on their now-famously weird social media accounts—suggests that Lieu’s style probably wouldn’t work for everyone.

He says that social media should be a “purposeful extension of [one’s] brand”, and “some brands work best with an authoritative voice,” while others work best “with one that is more colloquial.”

So while the President might take some criticism for accidentally tweeting gibberish, Lieu can get away with it.

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