Whether they're warning constituents of impending storms or posting pictures of their kids eating ice cream, social media is a growing part of the political world, four politicians said Thursday night.
"Politics is being turned on its head," said Dan Bongino, a former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who is now a "semi-official" candidate for Congress.
Bongino — a heavy user of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine and other social media — told a small "Tweetmasters" gathering in Annapolis that social media is a crucial way for politicians to make their voices heard to voters and constituents.
Tweetmasters is a fledging group in the Annapolis area that meets monthly to discuss the best ways to use Twitter, the social media service that allows users to post updates and links in 140-character bursts.
This month, the group attracted a bipartisan lineup of politicians: Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen and Anne Arundel County Councilman Chris Trumbauer, both Democrats, and Republican County Executive Laura Neuman and Bongino, who lives in Severna Park.
Or, as they're known on Twitter: @cohenjosh, @ctrumb, @LauraNeumanExec and @dbongino.
While Bongino was the savviest Twitter user among the group — he described how he uses an analytics company to evaluate his social media efforts — Neuman admitted to being a Twitter newcomer.
Neuman, who was appointed county executive at the end of February, said she's attracted 546 users in her month on Twitter.
She said she learned quickly that it's better to post tweets herself, rather than rely on staffers. "I realized someone else doesn't have my own voice," she said.
For Neuman, Twitter also is a way to get her message out to constituents without having to rely on traditional news reporters as a go-between.
In addition to talking to reporters, "I can also put information out directly," she said.
All four politicians said they do all or almost all of their own tweeting.
Neuman said her staff will post news releases on her account, while Bongino said his campaign staff sometimes handles fundraising event tweets.
Joked Trumbauer: "I'm not nearly important enough for someone to tweet for me."
Trumbauer said he mixes in personal tweets to remind his followers that he's not just a politician, he's a regular guy, too. He posts pictures of him and his kids eating ice cream at Annapolis City Dock — even if it means ribbing from his friend, Cohen.
Cohen is a frequent poster of pictures on Twitter, too. His latest interest is posting pictures of construction progress at the Annapolis Market House, a downtown attraction that is set to reopen with new food vendors in the coming weeks.
"It's a good way to share what's going on," Cohen said.
Bongino said he also mixes personal observations and pictures, such as his daughter at a park. He said followers won't stick around if a Twitter feed "is all boring. 'Here's how I voted on this. I like the rain tax, I hate the rain tax.'"
Amid sharing Twitter tips, Neuman revealed that an Anne Arundel County government app is in the works. The concept is to allow county residents to report issues.
"If you see a pothole, you can take a picture and send it to us," she said.
Neuman said later that the app is in the development stage and won't be available for at least a month or two.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun