I learned a few things about social media last Tuesday night. The first was that there are a lot of people who haven’t learned anything about the role of social media over the last four years. To some extent, many of these people can be excused. This was the first US election where Twitter has been mainstream. During the last election, it was just a new tool in the arsenal of the technorati, but you would think, given Twitter’s role in the Arab Spring and elsewhere, that more people would have gotten a clue.
So for those people, here is a list of things not to forget in the age of Twitter.
1. Never let them see you sweat.
This is expecially true if you are a controversial political figure, or to cut to the chase, if your name is Karl Rove. For those of you who don't follow the inner workings of US politics, Rove is the person behind the curtain, the Great Wizard of the Republican Cause (hint: rhymes with Oz) and a focal point of the GOP funding raising effort. Rove had an estimated $400 million under the control of his Political Action Committies (PACS). Democrats, to put it mildly, don’t like Mr. Rove.
Rove is also a favourite on Fox News, so it was no surprise that he was part of the conservative network's election coverage. What was a surprise was Rove’s meltdown following Fox New’s announcement that Barack Obama had won the state of Ohio, and therefore, a second term as US President.
Rove, who presumably became terribly aware that his future as a strategist was on the line, began to argue with the Fox News personal - on air. His line of reasoning: it wasn’t - it just couldn’t be - over.
In the days before Twitter, the only people who would have watched this was Fox’s legion of conservatively slanted fans, who probably would have though this was nothing more than Fox News being corrected by the usually in-tune Rove, but thanks to Twitter, it became a media spectacle.
It started at 8:34am (Dubai Time) when Time columnist James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) tweeted: “SERIOUSLY IF YOU HAVE NEVER WATCHED FOX NEWS WATCH FOX NEWS RIGHT NOW.” This was followed a few minutes later by “FOX NEWS IS EATING ITSELF.”
Other pundits sent out similar tweets. You could almost hear thousands of people clicking their TV remotes, just to see what the fuss was about. It became one of the most watched and commented-on stories of election night.
2. You have the right to remain silent.
In politics, it’s nothing new for a person to have his own words twisted and used against him, but in the pre-Twitter days there was always wiggle room. It wasn’t unusual for people to claim that they were taken out of context or to argue the “meaning” of what they said. In other words, it’s the media fault, but on Twitter, you ARE the media.
Take for example, the Donald (@realdonaldtrump) who tweeted: “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country.” And few minutes later: “Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”
The tweets continued, most of them making Trump look at best, like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum, to worst, like a man getting dangerously close to suggesting open rebellion.
Most people on Twitter made sure that Trump knew that, in reality, most people were laughing at him. Quite a few people picked up on the word revolution. It in itself made headlines. Trumped defended his words for a while, but within a few days the tweet disappeared.
Again, back to Trump. Three days later and Trump was still at it, although in much more reserved tone, at least for Trump. Then he had the nerve to tweet: “Why do so many people say I hate President Obama—I don’t hate the President at all. I just disagree with his policies!”
After a three-day diatribe in which he basically implied that a vote for Obama was a vote that would hand the US over China, he expects people to believe that it’s all just a matter of difference on policies? That they’re really just, buddies? Try again, Donald.
4. No good deed goes unpunished.
Sometimes, there is just nothing you can do. A week before the election, New Jersey Governer Chris Christie, who has been called a possible Republican presidential candidate for 2016, praised President Obama’s response to Hurrican Sandy, despite his previous praise and support for Mitt Romney. It was only a matter of time before @GovChristieNJ (a popular fake account) got into the act and posted: “Whew, so relieved that Fox News is now blaming blacks, Latinos and women instead of me for a Romney loss. #Vote.” It was one of the most re-tweeted posts of the night.
Of course, the most re-tweeted post ever - not just of election night - came from the winner himself. President (Obama @BarackObama) who simply tweeted “Four more years” with a picture of him embracing his wife. There’s a lot of lessons you can take from that.