A couple of weeks ago I got a message on Twitter from TV3’s The Nation. They wanted to know if I would be willing to contribute to a story they were doing on Twitter as a political tool. It came as a bit of a shock. But I thought why the heck not. The story aired this morning, and it is now available online on the TV3 website. It was an interesting experience, one I hope I get to have again.
However, there are a few points I would like to expand on.
1) If you are going to be on social media: Do it, do it properly or go home. There is no point starting a Twitter account and not doing anything with it. There are a number of MPs who are guilty of this, Ian McKelvie, David Parker, Mark Mitchell (though he is now making an effort), Eugenie Sage. They all have accounts with very low numbers of Tweets. Some with as little as 1. To me, going to the effort of starting an account, adding a profile photo and the like, then not using it is the same as walking away from a conversation. It looks like you aren’t interested in hearing what people have to say. So if you are a political candidate or MP and you are thinking about starting a social media account, make sure you are willing to put in the effort to do it properly, or don’t come out to play.
2) “it is important you don’t let it take over”- Steven Joyce: Steven has a good point here. Despite the strengths that Social media has and the important role I think it will play in the coming election campaign, it isn’t a be all and end all of political communication. It is another tool in the tool box for politicians to use to communicate with voters and those who didn’t vote last time. Social media should be treated like any other media, it should be taken seriously as a tool to engage with voters, in a two way interaction. Just as you would attempt to break down the readership of a paper, or the viewership of a tv channel to figure out what message was best to send to place in that media, the same can and should be done for Twitter. There is a wide range of analytical tools available for social media to help people gain an insight into what their followers are interested in, use those tools. Don’t just see Twitter as a way to talk to a few hundred or a few thousand people. Find out what your followers are interested in an use those insights to generate content they will want to talk about.
3) Echo Chamber: At the end of the story, there is a small mention of this issue. But it is one to think about. If you are going to follow people, make sure you don’t just follow people form your side of the political spectrum. Find those on the other side that you respect to follow. People who will call you on your screw ups, who will give you a gentle ribbing, but also give you an insight into what those on the other side of the political spectrum are thinking.