Politicians are quick to criticize “the media” when they receive less-than-flattering news coverage.

On the other hand, many lawmakers and candidates are embracing media — especially social media — as an efficient way to reach out to voters, offering unfiltered views on critical issues.

Few politicos understand this new political reality better than Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

As of this week, Gaetz has 13.7K followers for @mattgaetz, his personal Twitter account, and 8.6K on @RepMattGaetz, his official account.

Compare that to Gaetz’s declared opponents in North Florida’s CD 1: Republican John Mills has no presence on Twitter, while Democrat Phil Ehr has only 3.8K followers at @PhilEhr.

As of early December, Chris Dosev, another Republican in the race, has more than 18K followers at @crisdosev — a “dubious” list with several likely fake (and probably purchased) followers, as Rick Outzen’s blog suggests.

“Since then,” Outzen writes, “Dosev has been losing about seven thousand followers a day, many of which are faceless with bad handles.”

Including Dosev’s questionable following, none of these other candidates have the social media numbers necessary to mount a serious bid for elected office in today’s interconnected world.

Unlike Dobrev, good social media is more than just a raw number of Twitter followers; Gaetz actively engages his fan base by smartly using the tools of social media to get out his message, more so than any other member of Congress.

For example, after tweeting any one of his frequent appearances on Fox News, Gaetz receives more retweets than any other congressional member. Each television spot only bolsters an already robust online presence among Gaetz’s many followers.

As a result, his Facebook page has grown its audience by nearly 7,000 likes in a year.

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