Queens Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has long maintained a prolific and popular presence on Facebook, but last month, he added Twitter to his social media repertoire. Though Mr. Vallone started sending tweets September 12, New York City politicos somehow didn’t seem to see the account until last week. As soon as we heard the news Mr. Vallone joined Twitter we reached out to discuss his plans for his posts on the site, whether he’ll be maintaining his Facebook page and speculation he may run for Queens Borough President or District Attorney once he’s term-limited out of the Council at the end of next year.
“I’m just learning the Twitter thing. I don’t even know how to respond or anything like that. I’m not sure what happens once I tweet…I don’t know how to check to see if people paid attention to my tweet. I’m just learning this stuff,” said Mr. Vallone.
Many politicians have aides maintain and monitor their social media presence, but Mr. Vallone assured us his Twitter account, like his Facebook page, will be directly under his control–despite the desires of his staffers.
“They wanted to control Facebook and then they realized that was a losing battle,” Mr. Vallone said of his Council staff. “The second I walked into the office after I set up my Twitter account that night, my chief of staff walked in and said, ‘Do you want us to handle this for you?’ It wasn’t actually a question, he was saying it like, ‘We got it now.’ And once again, I said, ‘No. No, this is going to be me too.”
So far, Mr. Vallone said the toughest aspect of Twitter for has been the site’s 140 character limit on posts.
“I am finding it very difficult to try to stay within the characters because I’m very sarcastic and sarcasm doesn’t translate with short tweets, I’m finding.”
Though he’s now taken to Twitter, Mr. Vallone has no plans to give up on his Facebook page.
“It took me a long time to get on to Twitter and the reason is that Facebook is, as you know, all me. No one else does it for me and it’s an amazing way for me to interact with my constituents, but it also takes a heck of a lot of time. I’m up till two in the morning getting back to everyone who contacts me and just, you know, trying to manage the posts so that nobody is saying anything inappropriate,” said Mr. Vallone. “I was just a little wary about taking on something else that’s going to cause me to spend more time on it….But I’m definitely not going to put everything on Twitter that I have on Facebook, so don’t stop paying attention to Facebook.”
Mr. Vallone said the main difference between his Facebook and Twitter accounts going forward will be that his Facebook page is more personal.
“Facebook, I consider that my extended family,” he explained. “I put things on there about my, you know, I just put my daughter’s volleyball win on there. That kind of stuff is not going to go out on Twitter.”
As of this writing, Mr. Vallone’s Twitter account has just 87 followers, which is much less than many of his Council colleagues who have been on the site longer and a far cry from the thousands of friends he communicates with on Facebook. However, Mr. Vallone doesn’t feel any pressure to amass more Twitter followers than his fellow Council members.
“I have absolutely never even looked at anyone else’s amount of followers and I know that I have a lot on Facebook,” said Mr. Vallone. “What I’m so proud of is…I can tell you the amount of people that I friended on one hand. These are people that have requested my friendship. I’m not out looking for followers. I never have been, I’m not going to start.”
Mr. Vallone has been mentioned as a possible candidate for both Queens Borough President and District Attorney. In the past, he has said he would not challenge veteran Queens D.A. Richard Brown and that, were it not for term limits, he would prefer to keep his Council seat rather than running for anything else. We asked Mr. Vallone whether joining Twitter and ramping up his social media presence could be a sign he’s planning to campaign for another office. He admitted he is “preparing” to run for something else, but denied his Twitter rollout was connected to any future ambitions.
“I am absolutely preparing for a future in public service. I’m seriously considering right now, Borough President. I have not made any final decisions, but, no, this really had nothing to do with it,” said Mr. Vallone. “I just had free time one evening, one of my friends sent me an invitation to Twitter and I said, ‘I should probably do this.’”
Another Queens politician, ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner, severely injured his promising political career on Twitter after he was caught sending lewd photos of himself to women on the site. Mr. Vallone promised us he won’t get involved in any similar social media scandals any time soon.
“I don’t even know how to Twitter–or how to tweet a photo,” he said with a laugh. “We have a long time to wait before we have to worry about anything like that.”