Somebody needs to take Thom Tillis’s twitter account away from him. And if it’s not him tweeting, then somebody else needs to be relieved of it.

I’m guessing that the Speaker was snowed in Wednesday and bored. Throughout the day and night, his account was putting out a bunch of pedestrian tweets that had nothing to do with the broader conversation happening on twitter. It had all the hallmarks of a narcissistic politician trying to garner attention. It also had all the hallmarks of somebody who doesn’t really understand the medium.

Over the past few months, Tillis has taken a beating on social media. The conservative blogs have been bashing him as an establishment lapdog while promoting his more conservative opponents. Tillis has tried pandering to them, claiming that he championed their causes during the legislature, but it’s not flying.

While Tillis is out there as a lonely voice tweeting on his own behalf, conservative sites like Carolina Plotthound and The Daily Haymaker routinely criticize him. His campaign is apparently counting on a huge television buy to carry him over the top. The activists are counting on a much slower but powerful grassroots and social media campaign to define the Speaker as too establishment for the state.

That’s the difference between old media and new. Thirty second ads can reach a very broad audience in a matter of days or weeks. It’s one-way communication, from the campaign to the audience and it’s powerful because of the speed and breadth of its reach. However, the impression the ads make is relatively shallow.

In contrast, social media is a conversation. It takes months to have a real impact and reach a broad audience. While that audience is smaller, it’s better informed, more invested in some candidates and more opposed to others.  In addition, they are less influenced by the TV ads that begin in the final weeks of a campaign. Particularly in a low turnout primary, it can be a powerful force.

Nobody can win a campaign in a state the size of North Carolina without substantial use of traditional media. And if no candidate can get up on television besides Tillis, he’ll likely win the primary. But right now, the contrast couldn’t be more stark: An army of social networkers driving an anti-establishment narrative versus a deep-pocketed frontrunner sending out lame, self-serving tweets in the midst of a snowstorm.


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