Tag Archives: Twitter

US politico makes huge twitter gaffe

1 Mar

Chuck Todd, NBC political pundit, author and personally a pretty savvy journo made an enormous twitter gaffe after the Canadians beat the US for the Ice Hockey gold medal last night.

During the medal ceremony, Todd tweeted;

Now the Canadians are really rubbing it in; they have the better anthem. #americathebeautifulshouldbeouranthem

I bet you can imagine the storm of angry tweets that followed that one, especially since the Americans would have already been sore from losing. You would have thought that an American political pundit who has his own daily political show would have known he broke two cardinal political rules in the US.

  1. Know your audience
  2. Don’t mess with American patriotism, especially when they just lose to Canada

The mother of digital parliaments

5 Nov

By Nick Osborne and Ged Carroll

The Internet has been changing every facet of modern life, even the mother of parliaments (at least to a certain extent anyway).  An exact state of affairs at parliament would be tricky to gauge, as innovation seems to be happening in different places.

Examples include the recent guide to Twitter, published by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which outlined how the micro-blogging service could be used to share policy information and engage the general public around issues of interest.

The main political parties have shown enthusiasm in adopting social media as well, although this hasn’t necessarily translated across to their respective Parliamentary Members where there is the more familiar range of adoption patterns from early adopters to laggards to complete technophobes. Pretty much every Member of Parliament and election candidate not contesting a safe seat has a web presence of some sort, whether that is through a party backed website, or through extensive social media branding.  Most of these are run through constituency or Westminster offices however, there are few MPs who are leading the way in the digital space.

Amongst the social media front-runners are:

Apart from the lack of uptake of social media tools across the Parliament as a whole, the biggest area where there seems to be a lack of understanding about social media is that it is a conversation. Although Twitter lends itself nicely to sound bites there doesn’t seem to be that much political engagement going on. There also doesn’t seem to be that much awareness about the impact of what they can be talking about. For instance, one MP recently complained about the workload required to deal with constituents.  In another case, an automatic news feed on Peter Hain’s Facebook page prominently displayed an embarrassing piece of coverage.

Peter Hain's Facebook Feed

Despite the high profile digital campaign of Barack Obama, the US generally isn’t anywhere near the level of near universal digital and social media adoption that one would expect. For example only 29.5 per cent of US Congress members and Senators are on Twitter – 123 House members and 35 Senators out of a possible total of 535. .

But the fact is, the next election is going to be a hard fought campaign and this is likely to have a transformative effect on digital politics as a new generation of politicians come through.

So where is the opportunity in digital for parliamentary and public affairs campaigns?

The most obvious use of social media is for campaigning as it is easy to demonstrate support for a cause, through re-tweets or number of members in a Facebook group.  Social media both facilitates and reveals groundswells of popular support. Nixon’s famous silent majority, are no longer silent or invisible to politicians.

For electoral candidates, Obama’s secret was always to tweet asks and Calls-to-Action and this should be harnessed by MPs or PPCs. There is no particular need for an MP to tweet about what they are having for breakfast, although the ‘inane’ tweets do personalise the tweeter so they can be beneficial.

But the key is, actively engage and converse with users online by asking supporters, party members and voters to do something. Come to my rally, get one friend to help deliver leaflets, donate £5 to the party, come knock on doors with me. Tweets like these that actively call for support and include the public are far more likely to help the candidate get elected.

This method of personalised engagement and Calls-to-Action can also be harnessed for out and out public affairs campaigns. It isn’t something that will transfer well to asking for support for a bank’s or defence company’s campaign, because the public will always be wary of sinister motives. But it will transfer brilliantly to campaigns surrounding NGOs, charities, patient groups, green and sustainability projects, local engagement and welfare organisations due to the need to rally support through calls-to-action.

A second and underrated factor is providing content for researchers. Like the rest of the UK, parliamentary researchers will often hit Google as their first point of call when finding out about a new subject and developing a point-of-view for their MP. Providing the freshest, most relevant content around a particular area, particularly if it has an industry rather than a specific corporate slant is one of the best ways to influence from a digital point-of-view.

There has been an increasing level of political social media analysis in the recent months. Tweetminister essentially aggregates tweets by Members of Parliament, as well as blogs on interesting issues surrounding communication and an open Parliament while the Hansard Society has recently published a report into the use of Facebook by MPs.

We would love to hear your views on the matter, so please feel free to leave comments.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.

Oh no he didn’t – David Cameron’s thoughts on twitter

29 Jul

As you all know, we are running a survey into MPs’ and politicos’ use of twitter. Part of the survey asks why are there so few Tory MPs tweeting in comparison to Labour and Lib-Dem MPs. We also ask which party gets social media.

I’m sure anyone who follows politics through social media may have seen or heard about the interview with David Cameron on Absolute Radio this morning, essentially making a jibe at twitter and having a good joke with Chris O’Connell on the breakfast show.

Essentially Mr Cameron was asked if he used twitter and his reply was “politicians have to think about what we say” and the instantaneous nature of twitter can lead to a problem of keeping on message and not being able to get a message across in 140 characters. This is a reasonable and legitimate argument against the use of twitter as a political engagement tool, albeit one I disagree with.

But these perfectly reasonable points led to a bit of a gaffe when Mr Cameron said “too many twits might make a twat.” Oh dear.

Funny at the time maybe and I’m sure absolutely no offence intended -he clearly didn’t call people who use twitter twats, but in the blogosphere and twitterverse, eyebrows have been raised. If you search for Cameron on the Twitter search engine today, most of the tweets are focusing on this. I personally feel it shows a lack of awarness of the medium by the Tory Leader. The fact that this message has spread well-past normal Absolute FM listeners shows the power of social media. Even if you aren’t on twitter yourself, the message is still instantaneously released as Mr Cameron found out. He has since apologised for his slip up.

It also shows an inherent lack of understanding of the medium by UK politicians generally. Tools like twitter should be used to create calls-to-action for public engagement. Examples include asking followers to come to rallies or events, calling for support on specific issues, making people aware of campaigns.

Twitter, politically speaking, isn’t just for stating what you are having for breakfast or with marked frustration, tweeting how many letters you have opened today, as one MP did I noticed, although tweets like these do personalise the user, so they should be interspersed with the calls to action.

News outlets have jumped on the Cameron interview. The Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, Sky, Reuters, the Press Association to name but a few, have all made comment on Mr Cameron’s choice of words and Labour List are currently having a field day.

The slip up won’t lose Cameron too many votes, but the question remains, does Mr Cameron and the team not get social media, or do they just not get breakfast radio?

Below is the video of the interview embedded from the Absolute Radio YouTube site – let me know your thoughts


Civil Servants to come out of the digital shadows

28 Jul

Civil servants come out from the shadows

The Government has published its Template Twitter Strategy for Government Departments (even more impressively, it is available for download on a Scribd page), suggesting to civil servants to begin tweeting and explaining how to do it, with the ultimate aim of improving public engagment.

The document is a really interesting, well put-together twitter template. It sets out pros and cons, twitter stats, a glossary and a reasonably significant list of influential twitter uses including journos, departments, MPs. It also has devised twitter objectives and metrics, which I’m sure will spur plenty of debate amongst bloggers and tweeters.

Written by Neil Williams (a.k.a @neillyneil), a self admitted “Web strategy geek at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,” the document advises civil servants, particularly those from the digital comms teams, to tweet on departmental campaigns, news releases, ministerial announcements, highlighting content on other social media platforms such as YouTube and even asking and answering questions.

Amazingly, this all means that civil servants will be crawling out of the shadows of Whitehall and will have a face, albeit a digital one. By encouraging interaction, there will be a transparency and two-way communication that, possibly, has never existed in Whitehall before.

Tom Watson MP, the first blogging Parliamentarian and avid social media nut, was also on the Today programme on Radio 4, spruiking the benefits of social media and, in particular Twitter, as a method of communication and interaction.

Tom Watson also made the point that many old mandarins still get their secretaries to print out the mandarin’s emails for review.

MPs are similar; we are currently surveying Parliamentarians and politicos about the use of twitter in Westminster. There are indeed MPs like Tom Watson, who was among a number of MPs on the Independent’s list of influential parliamentarian twitter, who are actively involved on the blogosphere and many of those listed have actively participated in our survey. But the truth is many still don’t get it and don’t see the point.

But surely, strategies like this show that social media has been adopted by the main stream and the idea that social media is just for kids, computer geeks and a small sector of society is no longer true. The powers that be have recognised the revolution will be digitalised and they have no choice but to get on board.

If you are interested in this issue and you would like to take our survey on the use of twitter in Westminster and Whitehall, we would more than appreciate your comments. http://bit.ly/10sf8B

Cross-posted with the Ruder Finn Dot Comms blog

British MPs start to communicate

7 Jul
John Prescott's twitter page

John Prescott's twitter page

I was just pointed to a really interesting gallery on The Independent’s website titled Twitter’s speedy move to the centre of politics. The gallery is compiled with the help from the team at Tweetminister, which is a really useful resource that lists all tweeting MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs).

What I really find interesting about it and is obviously the point of the gallery, is the evolution of twitter use by Parliamentarians. Initially, when I first joined twitter around 18 months ago, I think there were only one, maybe two MPs tweeting. Now according to the Independent, there are at least 66 MPs tweeting – 10% of the Commons. What’s even more exciting is that the vast majority of those MPs are active tweeters. Sure you have MPs such as @HarrietHarman who hasn’t tweeted since May and there is Shahid Malik (@DewsburyMP) who has never posted, but you also have avid users such as Kerry McCarthy [Lab] – Bristol East with 2623 updates, Jo Swinson [LD] – East Dunbartonshire with 1503 and of course Tom Watson [Lab] – West Bromwich East with 2368. There are apparently also 13 Ministers tweeting away.

Some MPs have even got so involved they have tinted their profiles green in support of the Iranian protestors. This may be a slightly questionable in terms of foreign policy decisions, but the fact is these MPs actively involved in the political social media revolution.

Most surprisingly, possibly in the majority of cases, it is actually them tweeting and not a researcher hidden away in Portcullis house as proven by @JoSwinson who tweets from the Chamber. And they reply if you contact them.

So the moral here is that there is a growing awareness of the power of twitter and social media in Westminster and this is surely going to grow. Twitter, facebook and other tools are becoming more and more legitimate ways to contact and engage with MPs and other key decision makers. I can only guess about what is to come especially in the lead up to the General Election.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms