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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tweeting the Nevada Legislature

When I was first introduced to Twitter, I thought it was stupid. I assumed the micro-blogging/social-networking website was just another way for Obama for America to intrude on my life during the 2008 general election. But over 1600 followers later, I’ve become a Twitter addict and earned the nickname “Ms. Twitter". As the 2011 legislative session gets rolling, I’ve seen bevy of politicians catch the bug.

What is Twitter you ask? According to the folks in charge:
Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters in length, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can share a lot with a little space. Connected to each Tweet is a rich details pane that provides additional information, deeper context and embedded media. You can tell your story within your Tweet, or you can think of a Tweet as the headline, and use the details pane to tell the rest with photos, videos and other media content.

I am hundreds of miles away from our state’s capital in Carson City, but Twitter puts me in the middle of all the action. Yes, that sounds hella corny, but it’s true. I don’t have to wait for a nightly news cast, morning paper or weekly column. I don’t have to wait for constituent outreach every weekend or whenever my representative is able to come home. I can just go to their Twitter page and see what they’re doing. I can also tweet them and tell them what I want them to be doing. Writing a letter, making a phone call or scheduling an office visit is so 2008. Plus, Twitter harnesses the most effective tool in political activism: public humiliation.

There are some politicians who get it, and some who don’t. I’m going to take this opportunity to call a few of them out.

First up, America’s hottest Secretary of State, Ross Miller @rossjmiller. Secretary Miller is the best Nevada political tweeter who is an elected official (who actually tweets their own material). He tweets helpful links and information as they pertain to his duties as secretary of state. He shares pictures of himself on the campaign trail, with his UFC buddies, with his favorite candy and the occasional weird costume party picture. The key to his Twitter success: he doesn’t just cast out information, he engages. He has over 3,000 followers and follows almost 1,000 people back. He cracks jokes and plays the occasional trivia game. And he is reading our tweets. At the last Aid for AIDS Las Vegas walk, I tweeted “our secretary of state is here with his hot wife” and he tweeted me back agreeing that his wife is indeed, hot. When President Obama was at Orr Middle School in Las Vegas stumping for Harry Reid, as the event was clearing out, he called me over and asked why I hadn’t live-tweeted the event.

Assemblyman Bobzien @BobzienNevada and Senator Leslie @sleslienv are from “the north” and provide much appreciated information and play-by-play tweets of all that goes on in Carson City and in their home districts. Both have live-tweeted official and ceremonial functions. Without Twitter, us poor unfortunate souls down south would probably never get the chance to “get to know” these two fine Democrats.

Lucy Flores @LucyFlores is a freshman assemblywoman representing east Las Vegas with an amazing personal story (google her). Although I do wish she’d tweet more (she is hilarious and wicked smart) I understand that as a freshman she is quite busy. But what she does tweet is good stuff. Lucy uses her twitter to let her constituents, supporters and friends know what she’s doing, where she’s at and how she is. She also links to articles about Latino culture and politics, women’s issues, and of course Nevada. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to her superior foursquare skills.

I’m including Ben Kieckhefer (how the hell do you say that?) @Ben_Kieckhefer for the sake of bipartisanship. He does seem to be the only Republican in the legislature who can coherently tweet. I’m sure his days as an AP reporter and flak for governor Jim Gibbons has helped hone his twitter communication skills. But I will remember this tweet if (when?) he votes to take vital funding from the most helpless constituents in his district.

Elizabeth Halseth @elizabethSD9 is the worst legislative tweeter. I’m not sure she’s aware that other people are reading what she writes. A look at her timeline and you’ll see she is just narrating her day, or giving herself props. The best way to get the hang of Twitter is not by jumping in head first and just tweeting whatever comes to mind. Start following people, look at what they tweet. See how they tweet. If you don’t understand something (hashtags, url shortening, RT/MT, tweeting pictures, etc...) just ask! I’ve answered a lot of Twitter questions via direct message or email. I’ve even given one-on-one Twitter lessons (for free!). But I guess there is something to be said about her substance-free Tweets--tweeting just to tweet but adding no value--and how the Republican Party as a whole functions.

Speaker of the House Oceguera @JohnOceguera and Senate Majority Leader Horsford @shorsford. I love these guys, but I don’t think they manage their own accounts, and that is a pet peeve of mine. Sending a tweet is easy as sending a text message. Sure, you can have staff link to press clips, but why not take the time to interact with constituents on Twitter for a few minutes a couple times a week? They’re new to Twitter, so safe to say they (re: their staff) haven’t quite gotten a hold of what it’s all about, and their accounts seem very mechanical and too polished/impersonal. They are probably two of the busiest and most stressed out people in Carson City not named Brian Sandoval, but if you’re going to have Twitter, do it right.

Is Twitter important? That’s for you to decide. For politicians, I think it is. It’s a way to side step the media filter and connect directly with constituents.

Feel free to judge my own Twitter skills @LauraKMM

And if you care, the Twitter follower leader board among Nevada legislators (follow #NVleg or my Twitter list of legislators)
John Oceguera 423
Lucy Flores 420
Elliot Anderson 412
David Bobzien 396
Marcus Conklin 298
Ruben Kihuen 298
Ben Kieckhefer 286
William Horne 259
Sheila Leslie 243
Elizabeth Halseth 180
Jason Frierson 167
Steven Horsford 84
Debbie Smith 70
Paul Aizley 61
Steven Brooks 45
Allison Copening 41
Michael Roberson 28
John Hambrick 23
Ira Hansen 23
Mo Denis 10

Ben Spillman of the Review Journal recently did a story on the emergence of Twitter and Tweeting among members of the Nevada legislature. I would link, but it’s the RJ and I don’t feel like getting sued. I did want to give Spillman some props because his article (and Halseth’s horrible tweeting) prompted me to blog this. I suggest finding his article on the RJ’s site; it’s worth a read.



  1. Laura Martin is quite possibly the most amazing force in the Nevada Legislature that's not actually present at the Nevada Legislature.

    Most of us get our information directly from her Journo and NVLeg feeds, I know I do! Follow her lists and you can't go wrong.

  2. Amen to that, Leo! That's my Laurita! I am always so proud of her. But, more importantly, informed and entertained by her.


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