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Follow your leaders

Chicago aldermen slowly but surely getting on the Twitter bandwagon

January 09, 2012|By Kalyn Belsha, For RedEye

It wasn't what the Lady Gagas and the Jimmy Fallons of the Twitter world see when they tweet, but it was a response nonetheless.

"Just saw @FiorettiChicago with a can of spray paint covering graffiti on Halsted. He said it was faster if he did it himself. Awesome."

So tweeted one resident about Robert Fioretti, alderman of the 2nd Ward, when he saw the Chicago politician taking a neighborhood problem into his own hands one night in October. The feedback—like everything on the site—was swift.

"I received lots of responses from that," said Fioretti, a Twitter user who, like the other 49 aldermen in Chicago, is responsible for looking after the interests of his neighborhood and voting on ordinances and other matters pertaining to the City Council. "It just shows the depth and breadth and expanse of using those accounts."

With more than 100 million users and growing, it's no secret that people from all walks of life are flocking to Twitter for this, that and the other. But the Chicago City Council?

You betcha.

In addition to Mayor Emanuel's handle (@ChicagosMayor), aldermen in 29 of the city's 50 wards have Twitter accounts, according to a RedEye review, although each varies in how frequently he or she posts. A team of researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology is even studying the habits of Chicago's political bigwigs.

"They don't get it," Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said of his colleagues who don't use the microblogging service. "It takes effort and I think [the City Council is] way, way, way behind the curve. There is no reason not to have it."

Moreno and Fioretti are far and away the most active aldermen on Twitter, according to the IIT study led by Libby Hemphill, an assistant professor. Going down the line, Alds. Daniel Solis (25th), Jason Ervin (28th) and Ameya Pawar (47th) are the next most likely aldermen to be talked to or about on Twitter. The ones most likely to name drop or talk to others? Fioretti and Moreno lead the pack there too, followed by Alds. Ervin, Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Roderick Sawyer (6th).

Some of the most active aldermen represent wards you'd expect — downtown and on the North Side — but others represent traditionally less digitally connected wards on the South and West sides.

By tracking tweets and retweets, Hemphill and her team are looking for patterns in the kinds of information aldermen share on Twitter and how they engage with other users. Of the 29 aldermen who have Twitter accounts, just seven tweet on average once or more per day and three have protected accounts.

THE TWEET SCIENCE

According to data collected by the Illinois Institute of Technology over 142 days since June (June 14 to Sept. 30 and Oct. 14 to Nov. 17):

>>The aldermen most likely to be mentioned or talked to on Twitter: Moreno, Fioretti, Solis, Ervin, Pawar.

>>The aldermen most likely to mention or talk to others on Twitter: Fioretti, Moreno, Ervin, Reilly, Sawyer.

>>Aldermen from Chicago mention one another on Twitter occasionally, but not nearly as often as congressional representatives.

KALYN BELSHA IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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