Politicians Still Don’t Get Twitter


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There is generally a disconnect between politicians and people. Nothing new here. Many are too arrogant to care what people think. After all, they are elected so they know what’s best. Others maybe are just too busy to keep up with thousands of constituents. That’s more understandable.

But when we look to Twitter to see patterns of political discourse in Canada, we find politicians are generally behind the curve in using this medium to do anything more than promote the busy-ness of their daily itinerary.

More analysis below these interesting excerpts:

Small had been hoping to learn something about how politicians use Twitter, but to her surprise, she found that it’s the media and political junkies who are taking the greatest advantage of the Twitterverse.

The main problem with politicians’ tweets, she says, is that they’re too self-directed—often updates about what the politician is doing or where he or she is travelling or visiting. Rarely do politicians use Twitter for conversations, she found.

Media accounted for about 10 per cent of the Twitter conversations with this tag, compared to politicians, who accounted for 1.4 per cent of conversations, Small found. The other big talkers with the #cdnpoli tag included bloggers and individuals, whether just partisans or political junkies.

via Politician ‘tweets’ the least interesting thing about Twitter, study finds – thestar.com.

I can understand that politicians don’t want to discuss political issues with other tweeps. They are rather busy. But they’re also whipped by parties to not go rogue by saying something in Twitter that will cause scandal or otherwise engage the public in political dialogue in a way that the party spin machine can’t run its message control.

That, I think, is why Tamara Small arrived at these conclusions about Twitter use: wonks and media outweigh politicians significantly.

Something, though, that Susan Delacourt doesn’t explore in this piece is how journalists in Twitter may be affected by discussion about news topics to the point that trending topics in Twitter may actually help determine what corporate media and the CBC decide to be newsworthy.

If you have any doubt about that, do some research on how the #BustyHookers hashtag developed a life of its own in a way that likely would have left that phrase only marginally newsworthy.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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7 thoughts on “Politicians Still Don’t Get Twitter”

  1. As a new federal candidate for the NDP, I try to use Twitter and Facebook as much as possible. But of course, being a candidate, I do sometimes fall under the mentioned category of “talking about myself”. Comments noted, will try to correct my ways =)

  2. Facebook? Ick! 🙂
    http://politicsrespun.org/index.php?s=facebook

    Self-promotion will happen. If it’s 95% of your tweets, you’re lame. Engage on issues more often than not.

    For instance, this tweet could go either way: “Just back from the Council of Canadians Edmonton AGM. Great to see such dedicated and progressively-minded people! AM”

    You’re right about what you say, but follow it up with a couple tweets explaining who specifically rocks and why so there’s some substance beyond the Twitter equivalent of kissing a baby. 🙂

  3. Oh, and this bit in your bio is great: “supporter of rich and active public dialogue and debate”.

    But you’ll get hosed if you don’t actually do that in a place like Twitter. Even a tweet of a blog post where you go into detail on a topic would be good.

  4. Thanks for taking time to go through this and giving very useful suggestions. I’m still quite new to this so any insight is greatly appreciated.

    As for Facebook, I know what you are saying, but cannot afford to drop it as of now – a lot of people I know are only on FB and don’t want to move.

  5. Yeah, the beast that is Facebook. Once Diaspora and Appleseed get going, as open source, distributing social networking, people will flee out of the guarded compound like they did when they found out that AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve were ghettos. That exodus will start by the end of summer.

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