Hillary Clinton on Twitter: Welcome to the new way to reach potential voters

June 11, 2013

It’s about time Hillary Rodham Clinton got a Twitter account.

Everybody who’s anybody tweets. Anybody who wants to be somebody tweets. And those who might someday want to get elected president should most definitely tweet.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from a 2011 trip to Libya. (Kevin Lamarque - Associated Press)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from a 2011 trip to Libya. (Kevin Lamarque – Associated Press)

Clinton made her debut in the land of messages containing 140 characters or less Monday with her first tweet ever, writing, “Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe created last year’s hilarious Texts from Hillary. Clinton’s avatar on Twitter capitalizes on the popularity of their meme, using a black-and-white version of the photo showing the then-secretary of state wearing sunglasses and texting on a plane.

So far, Clinton’s following her husband, her daughter and the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton School on Twitter. But by 1 a.m. Tuesday, she had accumulated more than 304,000 followers. (Husband Bill no doubt helped that number when he retweeted her tweet to his 746,262 followers.)

Her bio on Twitter (note to self: update my Twitter bio — punch it up with some light-hearted sassiness) is lengthy but inclusive: “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”

That touch of mystery at the end — “to be determined” — has plenty of people wondering.

I hardly think Clinton getting a Twitter account means we should start plastering our cars with “Hillary in 2016″ bumper stickers, but if the woman has any presidential aspirations whatsoever, tweeting’s not just a good idea, it’s a requirement.

It has to do with image. Clinton needs to reach a new generation of voters — young voters — and she’s already 65 years old. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed may have nailed it:

“The new dagger at Clinton’s heart is generational. Even in 2008, Barack Obama won in part by promising to ‘turn the page’ on the Clintonian past, and to welcome a new generation. In 2016, Hillary Clinton will face an electorate that includes people who were born just as Monica Lewinsky was becoming a household name, to whom the Clinton years are a kind of hazily positive past — the sort of film-reel history that Watergate represented in Bill Clinton’s election.”

 

Monica who? Just for fun, I asked my kids about her at dinner. My 21-year-old, who aced her Advanced Placement U.S. history class in high school, knew. But my 15-year-old son, a high school sophomore, along with his girlfriend, had no idea — and they’ll be old enough to vote in the next presidential election.

Forgetting Monica and what she represents may not be that bad for Clinton, frankly. But this next generation of voters doesn’t remember the prosperous times of the 1990s, either.

Even if it turns out that all Clinton wants is to carve out a niche at the family foundation and wait for Chelsea to produce that first grandchild, tweeting has benefits. It can help build an audience for her upcoming memoir, due out in June 2014. Twitter’s another method for protecting her reputation and her legacy, which have been endangered from the GOP’s attempts to blame her for Benghazi.

Let’s face it, the whole world seems destined to join Twitter. It’s been touted as the way to communicate for everyone from academic researchers to salespeople seeking customers.

Even CEOs should tweet, according to an Inc. article by Jay Steinfeld. Some of his so-called “no-brainer” reasons apply to Clinton as well.

“You can connect personally with your employees,” Steinfeld writes. Well, Clinton wants to connect with potential voters. How better to build a relationship over the next three years with as many people as possible? Once upon a time, politicians visited the local diner and shook hands. Now you can send a tweet and, in essence, shake hands with millions at one time.

Steinfeld’s second point: “You can connect comfortably with the press.” That sounds custom-designed for Clinton. Every political reporter in the country has probably already “followed” Hillary. The sheer number of articles on her first tweet are testament to the power of Twitter, and some of the pieces read practically like love letters.

“You can build and revive relationships,” Steinfeld continues. “I confess: It’s fun to ‘meet’ your favorite CEO, athlete, musician, or artist [or perhaps presidential candidate?] via Twitter.” It might behoove Clinton to pay attention to his advice on retweets. “Today, it’s a form of social currency that is valued by employees, colleagues, and friends. Be generous and link often; the gesture will come back to benefit you, too.”

She’s got some catching up to do in learning the nuances of Twitter as she comes late to the party. (Even Pope Francis has a Twitter account.) But she’s been welcomed with open arms.

As Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tweeted Monday, “The sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits welcomes @HillaryClinton to Twitter.”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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