Gov. Jerry Brown's Twitter Fail

California Gov. Jerry Brown has put the nail in the coffin of having an approachable "social" media presence. Brown - or, more accurately, someone who runs his Twitter account - has culled thousands of people from the list of folks he followed.Ā 

I know this because I was one of the people who followed Brown back before he had even 1,000 followers, before he's officially announced for governor, and months before he was added to Twitter's suggested users list and jetted to more than 1 million followers. That Twitter relationship ended sometime in the past several days as Brown's social media handlers dumped most of his Twitter connections.

I wrote about Brown and his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, and their Twitter influence, back during the campaign last year, and I used Twitter and related tools to promote the Democratic ticket statewide.

Too bad Brown and his staff don't get it.

It's clear that Brown uses Twitter just to pump out the occassional press release, but at least he had made the casual connection of following back many of his early supporters. Unlike former Gov. Schwarzenegger, who used Twitter often and creatively (I followed Schwarzenegger when he had about 57,000 followers - he's got more than 2 million now and still follows me), Brown's presence there is a joke now that he follows only three score reporters and newswires.

And no, that's not a strategy for reading or communicating (effectively reading Twitter streams or interacting with reporters there has nothing to do with how many people you follow), that's a slap in the face to the little people.

Showing 25 reactions

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  • commented 2011-06-27 13:30:13 -0400
    My point was that I understand the mass unfollowing, and think it was a smart move.

    I’m with you on the last two paragraphs, in that Brown and every politician and their constituents should be doing more to engage rather than just pump out press releases.
  • commented 2011-06-27 13:10:30 -0400
    Looking for where In this short analysis I stated that politicians should follow back everyone who follow them. …
    However, I do understand that Brown’s staff might be scared of his relationship with me in light of Rep. Weiner. I am pretty irresistible.
  • commented 2011-06-27 12:55:55 -0400
    I disagree with Adriel and Robert, go figure.

    Adriel: It’s perfectly understandable for politicians to be weary of who they follow. ‘Following’ denotes a relationship, to whatever extent. In that regard, and especially in the wake of the Weiner scandal, every online relationship is a potential liability.

    Which brings me to my disagreement with Robert:

    Twitter is an excellent, if not ideal network for politicians and campaigns to engage, at least by a simple reply or acknowledgement, with limited liability.

    Engagement is not dependent on any relationship, or ‘follow’. All the supporters, or followers, want is the occasional acknowledgement to let them know that the person/people behind the account are listening (and they should be listening).
  • commented 2011-06-27 11:55:27 -0400
    Tim, I actually advise politicians to stay off Empire Avenue – and believe me, I’ve been asked. But thanks for playing.
  • commented 2011-06-27 11:49:59 -0400
    Hardly a failure at all. Brown’s Twitter stream indicates mature use of the tool. Given his position, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to judge his social media efforts by the number of people he follows on Twitter. Next thing we know he’s not on Empire Avenue. Tempest in a tea pot?
  • @WaldenE mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-06-27 11:21:32 -0400
    MT @adrielhampton Lots of reaxn 2 Gov. Brown's mass unfollowing points 2 Weiner debacle Dbl fail, then, 4 shortsightdnss
  • commented 2011-06-27 11:10:27 -0400
    I’m not sure I agree with your article. I agree with the assumption that he probably culled followers now post Weiner, but a pol does not need to follow people in order to interact with them. If the twitter account does a good job of replying to comments, then there really is no need for it to follow anyone.
  • commented 2011-06-27 10:59:21 -0400
    Jim, others have made that same point – this is a reaction to Rep. Weiner. And that makes it even more of a fail, as real professionals in digital media have been closely considering this issue of who to follow back for the past couple years. Also, I’ve obviously been following Brown’s use of Twitter for the past couple years. It has always been subpar; this is the latest.
  • commented 2011-06-27 09:40:26 -0400
    This is all fallout from the Rep. Weiner debacle where who he was following became a major issue. Of course, the real issue was how he was communicating with the people he was following, but we’ve now officially entered the era where who a politician follows is a political issue.

    Which is exactly why this post is important, because it is a political issue, and not just one about gotcha politics, but about leaders being accessible to their constituents.
  • commented 2011-06-27 09:27:46 -0400
    As one of the “little people” on twitter, I personally find politicians and others (celebrities) are very uninteresting to follow when they have a strategy of not interacting but simply broadcasting. Which is typical when they follow a very, very limited list. It is a signal that their twitter feed is a broadcast channel and, frankly, I can get that crap elsewhere.

    But, there are some who provide valuable content not easily available through their standard PR stream and who actually engage sometimes. They actually respond to your content if you say something that interests them.

    It is a changed stategy for Brown. For me, it is a #fail as for Adriel. It is a signal to me that, unless he provides unique content, I have no need to follow his twitter. It will all duplicate the press release.
  • @TimGoos retweeted @adrielhampton 2011-06-27 09:20:42 -0400
    Great debate about Gov. Jerry Brown's Twitter purge #ca #gov20
  • @emmettoconnell retweeted @adrielhampton 2011-06-27 09:20:41 -0400
    Great debate about Gov. Jerry Brown's Twitter purge #ca #gov20
  • @sanchezjb mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-06-27 09:18:54 -0400
    RT @adrielhampton Great debate about Gov. Jerry Brown's Twitter purge #ca #gov20
  • commented 2011-06-27 05:16:34 -0400
    I 100% agree with Scoble on this one (Sorry, Adriel!). I’ve learned not to take follows/unfollows too personally, especially when they’re someone of “celebrity” status. I’ve had celebrities (or at least celebrities to me :)) DM me a response, demonstrating they’re paying attention and care.
  • commented 2011-06-27 05:12:54 -0400
    Long Facebook discussion of the post here –
  • commented 2011-06-27 05:03:04 -0400
    My main feed was screwed up (and moves to quickly) when I hit about 300 people. That’s what lists are for.

    Surely the main focus of any politician or representative is to have the backing of his constituents? The people who got you in office are also the ones who keep you there an shunning them, in my opinion, is not only a bad PR move, but also career mismanagement…
  • commented 2011-06-27 04:57:14 -0400
    Well, let’s be honest about what I’m talking about. As a PR thing to seem warm and friendly? It’s great. As a listening agent? No way. If you want to use it for that then go to and do some searches for your name or competitor’s name, etc. Following more people won’t help you be a better listener engager. It will just screw up your main feed and make it so you never look at that again.

    And using Twitter to push out messages, is far different, or using it to answer back to people who you searched for talking about you is quite different too.
  • commented 2011-06-27 04:52:24 -0400
    If Twitter is “useless” as some people claim, then why are other governors wholly and completely embracing Twitter and other forms of social media? This seems to be more of an indicator of the “old guard” versus the “new guard”. New Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is one example of taking the complete opposite approach to social media:

    “Gov. Bill Haslam used the Tennessee Digital Government Summit Thursday morning to push the use of social media.

    The Haslam administration claims the governor is the first in the state to fully incorporate social media sites into public outreach efforts and to urge state departments to assertively engage the public through online tools.

    Since his inauguration, Haslam has seen his online presence grow to include the following: about 40,000 Facebook followers; about 8,400 Twitter followers; about 1,100 LinkedIn connections; about 17,300 YouTube views; about 97,300 Flickr views; and about 94,000 visits to…"

  • commented 2011-06-27 04:48:36 -0400
    Robert, it just seems like a kick in the teeth for the “(wo)man on the street”. Let’s be a team! We can build something together! Who is with me!

    …and then, “Right, I got where I needed to be, so let’s do some laundry…”.
  • commented 2011-06-27 04:42:51 -0400
    Matt, yeah, I get that, but if you thought he was really listening to any of those inbound tweets I have a nice bridge to sell you in San Francisco. I’m following 32,000 and they are hand picked and there’s no way I can watch more than a small portion of them (I follow that many to see patterns and to help me build my lists, not for listening or interaction purposes). The only advantage to being followed this way (other than bragging rights) is to be able to DM someone.

    I met with Ashton Kutcher and it’s clear he isn’t able to follow or interact with anyone he’s following. So, what advantage is it? I don’t get it.

    By the way, I used to autofollow people back but changed my strategy to make my main feed actually interesting. It was the best thing I did BY FAR to my Twitter account.
  • commented 2011-06-27 04:38:57 -0400
    Robert, I tend to agree with Adriel on this one. It’s like he got his electioneering hands dirty, then washed them as soon as he got where he needed to be.

    So long and thanks for all the fish…
  • @swellyn mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-06-27 04:30:28 -0400
    RT @adrielhampton: Gov. Jerry Brown's Twitter Fail #gov20
  • @GovTwit mentioned @adrielhampton link to this page. 2011-06-27 04:26:24 -0400
  • commented 2011-06-27 04:25:51 -0400
    I disagree. Twitter is a horrible place to have interactions with constituents. He was absolutely right to limit inbound so that people don’t have expectations they will be listened to. It’s not scalable. It’s far better for you to email in your concerns, or, well, just tweet them with a hashtag.
  • published this page in Blog 2011-06-27 04:00:53 -0400

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