Rand Paul is the junior Senator for the state of Kentucky. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is also the son of former Presidential candidate Ron Paul. He is a trained Ophthalmologist. He is also a member of the Tea Party faction of the Republican party.
Considering the size difference between New Zealand and the US, and the much higher profile US politicians have world-wide, it is to be expected that US politicians will have much larger followings, but I believe that there are still things that can be learnt from what they do.
It is obvious that Rand gets a number of his followers just because of who he is. He has only sent just over 2000 tweets yet has over 400,000 followers. To put that number of followers into perspective, it is more than the total number of Twitter users in New Zealand.
Considering the number of followers he has, and I suspect the high number of tweets that are sent to him, it is not surprising to see that only 5% of his tweets are replies. The issue that occurs when you have that level of following is people start to get offended if you reply to someone else but not to them. They don’t care if there is a legitimate reason, like a lack of time, they still get offended, so in a lot of cases the easiest solution is simply to not reply.
It would have been easy for those behind the account to retweet lots of things from other users and not bother to create original content. They seem to have managed to keep the temptation to retweet under control, with only 10% of his tweets being retweets.
What is impressive is that nearly 90% of his tweets have been retweeted at least once. I guess this is too be expected with 400,000+ followers, but at the same time each of his tweets is averaging 238 retweets. To put this in perspective, John Key, with around 25% as many followers, is averaging 75% of his tweets getting retweeted, with an average of 10 retweets per tweet. So we can see that whatever Rand is doing, it is working.
It is interesting that Rand doesn’t have any party branding on his Twitter account. Nor does he have any mention of the state he represents.
Rand is obviously willing to take the micky out of himself. A few weeks ago there was a link doing the rounds on social media,
17 Awkward Photos That Only Politicians Take, which were all really clichéd images that we have all seen too many times. Rand tweeted the link:
But also tweeted this image next:
Having the ability to laugh at yourself is a good thing for all politicians, no matter where in the world they are.
Even though the statistics suggest that Rand’s account generates a lot of original content, there are also a lot of links in there. Nearly half of his tweets contain links. Now without knowing exactly how Twitonomy measures links it is hard to judge how much of an issue this is. But looking at some of the tweets, it looks like there is still a rather dominate broadcast element to the account.
Twitter is obviously a good way to communicate directly with people, but one reason people follow accounts is to get an insight into people that they can’t get else where. Which just tweeting links to already available content isn’t really going to achieve. As with Julie Anne Genter, it isn’t the number that matters, it is the ratio of links to real content.
However, one place where the links don’t matter so much is in their use as a response to a Saturday Night Live skit:
At one point, the Republicans tossed it over to a character playing “DJ Rand Paul,” who wore headphones while spinning records on stage.
While the point of the sketch was to paint Republican candidates as out of touch with young people – despite their efforts to broaden the party – the real Rand Paul appeared to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, at least on Twitter.
Taking song requests with the hash tag “DJRandPaul,” the senator’s Twitter account became a steady stream of music videos Sunday featuring an eclectic group of artists, including Chumbawamba, Bruce Springsteen, Coolio, Macklemore, Daft Punk, the Beatles and Fatboy Slim.
After being the subject of a skit on a comedy show, he responded by playing up to the role used to satirise him.
He proceeded to tweet a number of youtube links to music videos of requested by people tweeting to the hashtag #DJRandPaul.
Rand is not backwards about coming forward. He is willing to speak his mind and use Twitter as a tool to advance those criticisms.
Tweeting quotes from speeches is something that more NZ MPs could organise to have happen. It is a good way to get quotes out there quickly, without having to rely on the media.
It is obvious, from the stats mentioned above, that Rand is generating content that people want to share. He is doing some things that politicians in New Zealand could learn from. He turned what could have been a minor, but negative, story about him and the GOP into a positive online story about how he responded to it. There are things that NZ MPs can learn from Rand Paul. But at the same time, I would suggest that there are things that Rand could learn from some of our MPs. He may have too many followers to be able to reply to them. But it is common in NZ to see debates between MPs from different parties, yet, that is not apparent in Rand’s timeline. It will be interesting to see if that is also the case across the other Senators and Congressmen this series will look at.