Tweets — An effective way to engage Americans on politics?

On Tuesday night, a Senior Lecturer in Communication Arts at IUSB (Indiana University South Bend), Alec Hosterman, went to Washington, D.C. to tweet during the State of the Union. How well did he use Twitter during this important political event?

The effectiveness of Hosterman’s tweets during the State of the Union depends on what audience he was tweeting for, what they wanted out of their tweeting experience, and what he wanted them to get out of it.

The first dozen or so Tweets added more of level sense of atmosphere and some moments of humor to the event by commenting on the crowd, Boehner, and Obama fist bumping. If he was tweeting for those watching along with the State of the Union, he began by simply hitting the highlights they were already hearing, but as the tweets went on, began questioning what was said and adding his own comments along with them. He also posed questions, which encourage followers to participate in a dialogue.


He also did a good job engaging in conversation with followers by responding to their comments during the State of the Union. This is definitely a good way to make the experience of his feed interactive and inclusive for his readers, but could also be a little distracting for those who wanted to only follow the State of the Union and didn’t care for the opinions of others yet. (Hearing other’s opinions can color the way they experience or interpret the speech, a power that can be good or bad.)

For those not watching the State of the Union but just following the tweets, what was happening would be a little less clear, as he was taking more a stance of giving commentary in his short amount of space than giving a play by play of what was said. He used his feed more as a place to think and react that to give breaking news tweets, though he did use quotes when he felt the need to comment on them.  (and at the end of the night made it clear he was critiquing the speech).

The tweets in the day leading up to State of the Union were more of the tweets of someone’s personal Twitter: here’s what monuments I’m at with a picture, here’s what I’m doing, here’s where I’m going for dinner. These types of Tweets border the line between interesting (“Today has been about seeing the places most of us only know thru TV or books. Very humbling. Can’t wait until tonight’s event!”) and the kind that draw people away from Twitter with the overload of uninteresting information (“Trying PJ Clark’s for dinner”). However, these were before the big even started and can be more human interest that draw people into his character and learn more about him as a person, and also hinted that his feed wouldn’t suddenly be used only as a breaking news or only quotes feed during the State of the Union.

Overall, I think as an individual he used his Twitter feed well to reflect on and engage others in the State of the Union instead of passively watching, showing how social media can be used in matters of importance and even change the way people think about what they are experiencing.


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