The Twitter campaign: what it means so far

Twitter may have existed during 2008’s campaign — the little birdie just turned five — but it was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is now. Indeed, as Kathleen Petty quips in the most recent edition of CBC’s The House, “The campaign wasn’t even underway when people started referring to it as the Twitter campaign.”

She continues: “The battle to get in the last word — in 140 characters or less — has been raging. But how exactly is what’s happening in the Twitter-verse affecting what’s happening in the campaign?”

And, how is it affecting the way journalists report on election campaign stories? Petty enlisted CBC’s own Laura Payton to find out.

It’s worth listening to the segment posted online. Payton says there’s no question Twitter has changed the way she and other journalists work on the Hill, adding that “It’s also speeding up the news cycle even more.”

How fast is fast? Well, according to one of Payton’s sources, once upon a time it took 24-36 hours to get public reaction. Now it can take minutes, seconds even, before a tweet blasts the world. As one politician added, this means Twitter can beat the press — if the press isn’t quick.

On the good news side: Some politicians, such as Conservative MP Tony Clement, have used Twitter to bypass their press secretaries. In Clement’s case, this has sometimes meant trouble (we can think of one now-notorious case) but, as another of Payton’s sources says, the first politician to use a telephone likely got some backlash, too.

In other Twitter news: Canadian Press has decided to launch a five-week project (over the duration of the campaign) “to help find nuggets in all the noise,” CP reporter Stephanie Levitz writes.

Together with digital public affairs strategist Mark Blevis, the news agency will parse thousands of tweets, blogs, videos and comments to “keep track of the digital pulse of Canada.” Basically, we’re talking one giant focus group with real-time analysis.

And, if you’re really curious about how prolific the parties have been on the social media battlefield check out this graphic, which tallies all the blows as of April 2.