I have already blogged about #TeamKey here. But I have had a few more thoughts about it and the “hijacking” of it. Twitters response to #TeamKey should have been expected by those behind it and they should have planned to deal with it. Instead there have been stories carried by both TVNZ and al jazeera about the hashtag being hijacked. On top of this the hashtag associated with Trevor Mallard’s idea of bringing the Moa back from extinction, #moa, started trending yesterday, along with Trevor Mallard trending this morning. While #TeamKey, despite all of those people trying to highjack it, has never managed to start trending.
Hashtags are a user-created feature of Twitter. They were created to make it easy for users to search for, find and follow information associated with a particular topic. They have made Twitter a much easier to use. However their user-generated nature is still highly valued by users. Just recently I have been involved in two debates about which of the many election/politics related hashtags people should be using. But the key aspect is that it is users, low-level users, discussing how to use the hashtags that have already been established. Hashtags generally go wrong when they are ordained from on high, when there is a lack of user buy in to start with. This can be seen with the response, on going as it is, to #TeamKey. It has also been seen recently with #MyNYPD and #AskThicke. Both of these got hijacked in ways that generated blowback for the organisations that started them. Hashtags have to start somewhere, but Twitter users are pretty good at figuring out where they started. When it is obvious they part of an organised campaign, that users don’t buy in to, they will respond.
One way that organisations, like political parties, can combat this is to establish a large, supportive base of users on the platform, who will willingly engage in supporting the hashtag. This is obviously not something that can be done over night. It is something that takes times. But it is something that the National Party haven’t really done successfully. Either internally, or by continuation externally.
Sure John Key has the largest Twitter following among New Zealand politicians, but once you get past him, thinks look pretty bleak. John Key has 110,000 followers, the next best is Nikki Kaye on 9500, followed by Maurice on 8000, but he hardly ever tweets, 264 tweets since joining. There are a number of other MPs with low tweet numbers and semi respectable followings, Paula Bennett, Chris Finlayson, Bill English and Hekia Parata. But the only reason they have these followings, of between 2700 and 5700, is because of their profile. It is not a following generated by interaction.
To give you an indication of both the over all lack of followers and the influence of John Key on Nationals online footprint, National’s average number of followers per MP, including John Key is 4442. But without him it drops to 2131. This compares with an average of 3324 for Labour and 3794 for the Greens. When it comes to tweets with John Key included the average number per MP is 1714, or 1697 without. This compares with 3079 for Labour and 4371 for the Greens. So it is clear to see, from these figures and the weekly Twitter stats posts, National doesn’t have a strong presence on Twitter.
This lack of a presence also extends to a supporter base on Twitter. Once you exclude members of the Young Nats, there is not much of a vocal, supportive base of right-wing users. The Act party supporters on Twitter can be just as vocal and combative in their criticisms as those on the other side of the political divide.
So we have a situation where the National party decided to establish a hashtag and actively promote it, including a bit launch at the party conference, while having no apparent game plan, nor the resources of MPs or supporters active enough on Twitter, to combat the effort to hijack the hash tag. With a team as large as National has, 47 MPs, National should be able to run a coherent social media campaign. But they have failed to make sure that all of their MPs on Twitter are pulling their weight. They have allowed MPs to maintain accounts that are not being used, or are not engaging. Yet they expect to be able to start a campaign hashtag that they and their supporters can dominate, without establishing a solid foundation. Is it any wonder that their hashtag got hijacked? Would the party accept MPs not getting out and meeting voters? No, so why is it accepting MPs who decide to be present on social media, but aren’t willing to do anything. MPs on social media should be getting themselves out there. They should be using the medium for what it is suited too, engagement and showing their personality.
Their TeamKey.co.nz website, with its hashtag amalgamation section is hardly getting updated, due to moderation requirements I suspect. As of 2pm on Wednesday there had been no new content added for 20 hours, and as at midnight Wednesday, when this blog was finished, there have been two new items added. Has there really been that few National MPs, or supporters tweeting to the hashtag?
A final thought, there has been all this use of the term hijacked, in relation to the domination of the #TeamKey hashtag, but I have been collecting tweets sent to that hashtag since around lunch time Monday, and as at midnight Wednesday there have only been 452 tweets sent to the hashtag, by 214 users, with 134 of those only sending 1 tweet.