Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=177962
Story Retrieval Date: 10/31/2014 9:41:18 PM CST

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Diana Novak/MEDILL

When David Axelrod joined Twitter on Monday, he followed @MayorEmanuel before Rahm's real account.


Real Rahm thinks fake Rahm is hilarious, but will it translate to real votes

by Diana Novak
Feb 08, 2011


Political gaffes don’t seem to matter much to the "Rahm Emanuel" portrayed by the @MayorEmanuel twitterer — or his 20,000-plus followers.


The fake Twitter account contrasts dramatically in terms of popularity with @RahmEmanuel, the official campaign account. Just more than 6,000 people follow the real account’s tweets.

Tweets from @MayorEmanuel — which the candidate reportedly called “hilarious” — detail the vulgar and obscene adventures of Emanuel, David Axelrod and host of other big names in the political world.

Now, since Emanuel's place on the ballot was confirmed, accounts called @MayorCarol and @MayorChico have started tweeting, largely in the style of @MayorEmanuel’s profane ranting. One made for Miguel del Valle, @MayorMiguel, was deleted at the beginning of February.

With the role the Internet plays in campaigns larger than ever, could an online alter ego with a penchant for offensive commentary affect a candidate’s chances?

More help than harm, said Daniel Honigman, a former social media strategist for the Chicago Tribune.

“People may not think about Rahm Emanuel every day, but commandeering a fake Twitter account may draw more attention to him through the character,” he said.

The Emanuel campaign can count followers of @MayorEmanuel among those who will know their candidate’s name, even if the version they know is less politically correct than the real person, Honigman said.

“If you’re able to reach somebody through multiple channels, it might make somebody more likely to think about you when they’re going to the polls,” Honigman said.

Candidates hope to become popular brands, said Bob Killian, a strategist at Chicago-based Killian Branding, so their first task is visibility.

“It’s [about] acquiring a community of people who are engaged by and involved with a dialogue about that candidate,” Killian said.

Twitter accounts, and all social media, are ways for candidates to be aware of how people perceive their brand, he said.

This is particularly true if the accounts were created by somebody outside of the campaign, Honigman said.

“[I] think it may say a bit about the passion supporting the real candidates, even if it's only from one person who's willing to take the time to create a fake Twitter handle, engage followers and write interesting tweets,” Honigman said. “It takes time to do that.”

The brand that is created by @MayorEmanuel is familiar to many Chicagoans, said Killian.

“Rahm has this reputation for being very vulgar and abrasive, and I don’t know if that is necessarily a big negative to the Chicago voting population,” Killian said. “I think it might be a tough-talking guy, ‘that’s the way we do business here’ kind of thing.”

No matter what he tweets, attention from @MayorEmanuel bodes well for Emanuel’s campaign, Killian said.

“Now the spotlight is all on Rahm, and that translates into awareness — which translates into votes.”