It is as embarrassing and as dumb when politicians do it.
You should not follow brands on Twitter because everything they do is either stupid or an ad. And elected officials at the Congress-to-president level are just brands, so the same logic applies.
On Monday afternoon, Hillary Clinton tweeted a picture that she was hoping people would retweet because she is a brand and she had some #content she wanted to have go viral. Jeb Bush, a competing brand, made a version of the same picture promoting his content, which is "Democrats are bad." Then Clinton scribbled on his brand's picture and then Bush dissed her logo, which, in the world of brands, is like insulting someone's deceased mother.
Why did this little back-and-forth exist? Seriously, step away from Twitter for a second and think about why this exchange existed.
Hillary Clinton ostensibly wanted people to read her plan to address college costs, but recognizing that no one would, she wanted people to know that she had such a plan, so her team made a nice little image that could leverage the link as an excuse to exist. (No one who works in media ever does stuff like this, of course.) Campaigns know that you don't actually care about policy proposals beyond the broadest of strokes, so Clinton was just trying to let you know that those strokes were out there. The campaign tossed out the tweet understanding that her Twitter team -- meaning her energetic followers -- would retweet it and promote it.
Then Bush responded. He had two goals: Creating an image for his team to pass around -- little social lapel pins showing they're on team Jeb! -- and to try to get the Attention of the Media. If you want the attention of normal people, you post stuff to Facebook. If you want the attention of the media, you tweet. So Bush's plan worked. Clinton's response to Bush had these same two goals, and Bush's second response was mostly just so he could have the last word.
That's why the exchange existed. But there was no value to it, beyond some incremental brand awareness for the brands involved. A few more people know that Clinton has a college plan for something; a few more people know that Team Jeb! "gets" Social Media.
The ebulliently conservative Washington Free Beacon contrasted this exchange with the Twitter account of Donald Trump. Trump's tweets are brand tweets for Brand Trump, which is not a brand that worries a whole lot about how it is positioned or brand awareness. Trump approaches Twitter the way that Trump approaches the presidency: He is totally confident that he rules at it and that, if the whole thing somehow falls through? Eh, whatever. He still owns giant office skyscrapers in Manhattan. Brands -- and the politicians that emulate them thanks to their having hired "social media marketing experts" for their campaigns -- are thirstier than Miley Cyrus after two months in the Serengeti. Trump's thirst is quenched by Trump-brand water. He could not care less.
There are good elected officials on Twitter. Local people. State representatives. Folks that haven't hired communications staffers and are therefore tweeting corny parade photos and requests to come to poorly lit meetings in the back rooms of libraries. It's earnest and nice and occasionally informative.
Congress Twitter is bad -- even former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and his ghostwriter and self-aware Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Presidential Twitter is awful. It is as awful as following Old Navy or Microsoft or Denny's (why do you follow Denny's?). And if your job is to know what candidates are doing, don't worry. You will always end up seeing anything that's of any even-limited utility, because one of the people you follow will retweet 82 percent of the things the candidate tweets because there are people that do this for some reason.
Actually, those are brand-enablers. Unfollow them, too.