Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Combating Twitter Parodies and Impersonators

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. John Mica, who doesn't have a Twitter account, was parodied by the Twitter account @CongressmanMica. The account was recently suspended.

The handle @CongressmanMica has been claimed on Twitter, but Rep. John Mica isn’t behind it.

The Florida Republican’s office recently discovered the parody account and has taken action to protect his public image on the site, even though he does not use Twitter.

A Roll Call survey shows about 85 percent of Members have Twitter accounts, giving lawmakers the opportunity to directly connect with constituents. But they must also be conscious of their public image on two levels: the accounts they control and the ones they don’t, such as parody prankster @CongressmanMica or more malicious impersonators.

The first step in establishing a Twitter identity is to choose a handle. The majority of lawmakers adopt a straightforward handle containing their title and name, but others opt for a more informal moniker, even if it means the owner of the account isn’t immediately identifiable.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger goes by @Call_Me_Dutch. The handle comes from the Maryland Democrat’s reaction to being called “Congressman” or “Representative,” according to Press Secretary Jaime Lennon. “He replies with, ‘Just call me Dutch!’” Lennon said.

The handle reflects Ruppersberger’s personality, Lennon noted. “The Congressman is an everyday, normal guy,” she said. “He doesn’t like the formal titles.”

Julie Germany, vice president of digital strategy at the public affairs firm DCI Group, thinks personalized Twitter handles are a good idea. “The more you can do to appear to be a real person, using Twitter as a real person, the more effective you’ll be,” she said.

Rep. Billy Long also has an informal handle. The Missouri Republican says @auctnr1 derives from his Missouri license plate, “AUCTNR,” which is a nod to his career as an auctioneer. The handle @auctnr was already taken when he registered on Twitter, so he added the numeral. “Kind of like Air Force One,” he joked.

Long has received positive feedback about his unique Twitter handle. “I think I get a lot more comments than other people do,” he said, calling the standard handle of title and name “kind of old.”

One way Long could help Twitter followers find his official account is by verifying his handle, a formal designation process that many Members take to protect their identity.

Long hasn’t sought this extra layer of image security, but he’s not worried that it will hurt him.

If anything, he said, his unique handle will help drive constituents to his Twitter account. “It probably creates more notoriety that I don’t have a standard handle,” said Long, who has more than 1,800 followers. “I have quite a few followers, and I think people pass it around.”

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