The Politics of Twitter
The Politics of Twitter
Why politicians use Twitter (and why they shouldn’t).
Posted - 16 March, 2015
We have talked before on our blog about the issue of trust in advertising. Not all formats are as trusted as others, with it taking a savvy media planner to pick through the doubt and make sure an advert isn’t only seen, but trusted too.
However advertising has it easy compared to the sheer mountain of cynicism faced by every politician in the UK. As scandal follows scandal, it is in fact common knowledge that politicians are all the same and that they are all in it for themselves. Election turnout is in a state of decline, partly because politicians are the least trustworthy professionals around.
Yet despite this – 2015 is of course an election year, one in which political parties have to reach up, over the malaise and get their message out there, differentiating their brand from that of their opponents and doing so within budget.
Twitter is a first, easy option for speaking directly to the masses. With no middle man through whom a message can be confused or muddied, Twitter appeals to politicians just as much as it does to brands. Twitter’s own political best practice page indicates how big a deal it is for both the social media network and politicians.
Although only some politicians are famous enough to guarantee that their tweets will be widely disseminated, almost all politicians use Twitter as a means of broadcast, rather than a means of creating a dialogue. Top down, political broadcasting suited traditional media when the public didn’t expect to be able to speak back – but dialogue is at the heart of new media and social networks. As Democratic Society staff writer Ali Stoddart notes about David Cameron:
“The Prime Minister’s Twitter feed is inundated with missives that simply outline his policy and provide no scope for public interaction or consultation.”
And before we are accused of picking on the PM or his party, this criticism can be levelled at just about every important politician. The approach, of talking at the populace rather than using Twitter for dialogue, is common. Whether you agree with the policies of UKIP or find them a little bit morally reprehensible, it is worth noting that a major reason for their success lies with their ability to look as if they are genuinely listening to the concerns of a part of the electorate.
Broad stroke broadcasting still has a place in politics – for instance, we look forward to the onrushing billboard campaign with personal and professional interest; but for any politician looking to build trust (and perhaps show that they are at least somewhat human), we would give them the same advice that we would give to a brand: to use social media to listen and learn and not just to pontificate.