The power of Twitter for politicians has been displayed during the blizzard that hit the Northeast United States this week. While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come under criticism for the poor response and his lack of empathy, the Newark Mayor Cory Booker has become a national figure through his effective use of Twitter as a communication tool during this storm.
Booker's success - not in shoveling snow for his constituents but being accessible - has added another element all politicians will be scrambling to imitate. Newark, NJ, has a population of under 300,000, but Booker has over 1 million followers - compared to Bloomberg's 40,000 from the 8.4 million residents of NYC. Booker has a political base that many must be envying.
President Obama had about 2.5 million followers during his presidential campaign which grew to just under 7 million today. Booker has shown a very skillful use of social media and bonded himself with his voters, but he has also gotten himself noticed nationally and globally (the BBC has done a story about his Twitter skills).
Search results are humming with the story and a search for the two mayors shows the vast difference in how people are perceiving their efforts. The real time results for Booker are filled with praise and a sense of comraderie - a city smiling through the circumstances. Do one for Bloomberg and the feeling is one of a lynch mob.
Bloomberg has distanced himself from his constituents - he tweeted a few times as the storm was coming - telling people to stay off the roads - and then a handful of times since it started - mostly linking to his speech about the problems. He stopped on Tuesday. Booker has been chatting to his people and doing a few dig outs himself and even bring one family some diapers!
Booker's success is similar to businesses that have found the way to use Twitter. It is an intimate communication tool not a soap box to preach to people or point to public statements. No doubt this will be a story many politicians will be considering as the next election approaches or an event occurs in their area and they can get the people behind them.