I’m not sure it’s possible to be as passionate about elections as millennials and members of generation z are.
Young people today love voting. I know this because I see it all over my Twitter timeline whenever an election rolls around.
I see friends reminding their networks of local polling locations. I see friends sharing their preferred candidate, urging others to check out their platform. I see people sharing information on how to register so no voter gets left behind.
And you’d have to be lying to claim you hadn’t seen a friend or family member share a photo of their “I voted” sticker secured at the polling booth. Seriously, those have become a staple of voting day fashion. If New York Fashion Week happened on election day, these stickers would be on the runway.
What is a Twitter election label?
A Twitter election label is a label that appears under a Twitter user's name when that individual is known to be running for state governor, US senate or the US house of representatives in the USA.
You get what I’m saying.
Today’s young people have taken to social media as a method of advocating for this form of political activism, or citizens’ duty. It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines and watch anymore as parents and grandparents call the shots.
Many of those who are of voting age find it increasingly important to be informed citizens who contribute to local or nationwide politics.
So what is social media doing to keep up?
What is a Twitter Election Label?
As I was home on the couch the other night, going through my regular routine of scrolling mindlessly on my phone, I happened to notice something on Twitter I hadn’t seen before.
Under a user’s name and username, there was a small symbol that resembled the US Capitol or another similarly-styled government building. To the right of the symbol reads a title of candidacy, as well as that candidate’s location.
Do you see how, in the image below, it says “US Senate candidate, TX,” underneath Beto O’Rourke’s name?
After a few minutes of research, I learned that Twitter is beginning to help users in the United States understand who on their timeline is running for office in various elections. This is helpful because it provides contexts to posts.
Had I seen a friend or family member share this article, it may not have held that much weight. But seeing it in association with someone who is running for a position in the US Senate has me taking a double take to consider this post in line with O’Rourke’s other political views. The election label, in this scenario, proved to be helpful and informative.
Why put a label on it?
I’ve spoken previously about becoming verified on Twitter. The blue checkmark badge exists to verify the identities of politicians, celebrities, journalists, businesses, and anyone else in whom the public might have interest.
An election label is similar to a verification mark in that it’s Twitter’s way of informing users that a certain profile is both legitimate, and noteworthy. In addition, it might inform a user why a certain tweet is showing up on their timeline.
For example, I have a lot of friends who still live in Texas. It’s where I grew up, and where my parents still live. O’Rourke — my running example — is running to represent a lot of people I care about.
When I see his tweets in my timeline, I look at his label and realize why my friends are sharing his words: they are interested in his candidacy and want to spread his message. So with this label, I’m able to understand who O’Rourke is and why he matters to my network.
The election label is unique in that it applies six or seven more words to every tweet on the platform. It doesn’t factor the label into word count, but visually speaking, Twitter has chosen to bulk up the tweets on what is usually an incredibly sparse platform.
When Twitter first started out, it allowed users to tweet in 140 characters or less. It is, historically, a platform that values brevity. We should not take the addition of these election labels lightly, as they signify the valuation of truth in an increasingly gullible news environment.
My point? Yes, Twitter has chosen to add more words to tweets, which is out of character considering its preference for using little to say much. But this new feature also shows a newfound prioritization of truth in politics, of social media platforms doing their due diligence to lessen their spread of false news and propaganda.
I am of the opinion that, if social media is going to play such a large role in our everyday lives, it is the responsibility of the platforms to “keep themselves clean,” so to speak.
In short, that’s why we need labels such as these. Because in the past, social media platforms have inadequately protected the users they serve, and it’s had an adverse effect on national trust.
Who can have a Twitter election label?
Not every single person running for a position of power will have an election label. Per Twitter’s information page, election labels are limited to the profiles of candidates running for office in the following categories:
- State Governor
- US Senate
- US House of Representatives
As you can see, only the larger offices currently qualify for the label. Mayoral candidates, city council, aldermen and women as of yet are not supported in this feature. Twitter does not explicitly say whether these offices will qualify in the future.
Additionally, Twitter lays down some ground rules for those who wish to be labeled in this way:
“Currently, labels appear on Twitter accounts of candidates running for office during the 2018 US midterm general elections who:
- Are running for state Governor, or for the US Senate or US House of Representatives.
- Have qualified to appear on the general election ballot.
- Have a Twitter account that has been identified and confirmed as the candidate’s campaign account by Twitter and Ballotpedia.”
What is Ballotpedia? It is a non-bipartisan website created to inform readers about politics at all levels of government. Ballotpedia is in partnership with Twitter to confirm the identities of those running for candidacy.
According to their website, “Ballotpedia connects people with politics by changing the way they access the information they need to be informed about federal, state, and local politics. Our content includes neutral, accurate, and verifiable information on government officials and the offices they hold, political issues and public policy, elections, candidates, and the influencers of politics.”
Requiring those who want an election label to be confirmed through Ballotpedia is another way in which Twitter verifies the truth for its users. It’s kind of like when you go to the club and they ask for two forms of ID. Except for, in this case, you’re running for a high-level position in politics.
How political candidates can get a Twitter election label
If you’re running for one of these positions in office and you’re interested in having the election label connected to your Twitter profile, follow these instructions.
Ensure that your campaign Twitter, not your personal account, is listed on your Ballotpedia profile page.
The following is a screenshot of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s page on Ballotpedia, whose page I am using solely as an example.
When you scroll down to her contact information, you can see that she lists Twitter as a contact method.
When you scroll down even further to the very end of the page, you can see she’s included her Twitter profile under “external links” and “social media.”
Being that this process is entirely new, Twitter is updating processes in real-time. (If you’re familiar with my project management documentation, you’re aware that Twitter is taking an agile approach.) When this process first began, qualified candidates had to opt-in to receive a label.
Things have since changed, presumably to speed up the process and ensure every qualified candidate is well-represented through their tweets.
If you are running for office and you qualify for a label (ie you are verified through Ballotpedia), Twitter will notify you. You then have seven days to opt-out of the label application before Twitter adds it to your profile.
To life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
In a world entrenched in media, it’s often difficult to know what’s real and what’s not real. In my article outlining the importance of verified Twitter profiles, I discussed the number of false profiles in existence and the havoc they wreak.
Twitter marketing has seen the importance of elections to current and upcoming generations of voters. They sense the passion people have for having a say in the future of their country, the future of their lives. This election label feature is just one step toward a more informed populace.
During election season, information becomes overwhelming. Social media feeds are a blur of names accompanied by red or blue. It’s important to take a deep breath and sort through the madness. We ask ourselves a multitude of questions such as, “Whose platform aligns closest with my own moral and ethical convictions?”
Watching a candidate on Twitter is a great way to figure some of that out. It’s a place for candidates to interact with potential voters, to share their thoughts on current events or changing laws, and to advocate for their own issues.
Twitter is simply taking the things its users find important and — the moral and ethical future of our country, in this case — and empowering users to arm themselves with knowledge in the face of upcoming elections.
Certainly, Twitter can’t teach you everything. For that reason, many candidates have their official campaign websites linked to their Twitter accounts. It’s also why sites such as Ballotpedia come in handy.
But Twitter helps users start at the very beginning. And as a young governess in the Austrian hillside once sang, the beginning is a very good place to start.
For more information on how political campaigns are utilizing technology, check out the leading political campaign software in 2018.