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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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February 2010

Politicians and Twitter

What better time to take a look at state politicians’ tweets than now – at the official beginning of the South Australian election period?

It’s fantastic that some pollies have delved into social media, using platforms like Twitter. This means they get it – right?

Er … maybe not.

Taking a cursory look at some SA politicians tweets, it appears they use Twitter as a broadcasting platform rather than as an opportunity for conversation. They broadcast messages about themselves and only seldom do they publicly reply to followers, or retweet others.

Now, I’m not sure whether the pollies are only direct replying (DM) to their constituents. So I can’t categorically say they’re using one-way communication on Twitter. But to the general public, that’s how it appears.

This means most SA politicians haven’t really grasped what Twitter is about – that it’s a conversation. It’s not an opportunity for them to spout their views / tell us where they are / have a go at the opposition and then log off.

Let’s look at a few examples:
http://twitter.com/premiermikerann
There’s very little two-way interaction from South Australia’s current Premier. His Twitter account is full of paragraphs about what he’s doing, but you have to trawl thoroughly to see a single Reply to anyone else.

If you use search.twitter.com and look for @premiermikerann you will see that others are tweeting the Premier, asking him questions and sharing their opinion. Does he respond directly and privately? Or not at all? Who knows?

http://twitter.com/isobelredmond
The would-be Premier and Leader of the SA Liberal Party appears to be relatively new to Twitter. Similarly to Mike Rann, there is little interaction and conversation with followers on her Twitter account. And again, if you go to search.twitter.com it’s easy to see that people are asking her questions and trying to interact.

The following MPs have scant public interaction with followers on Twitter (at least over past few days .. I have not done an exhaustive search over the week):

http://twitter.com/MichaelWrightMP
Few replies – he does retweet the Premier quite often.

http://twitter.com/MarkParnellMLC
I had to travel past 23 tweets before I saw a reply – and that was to a Senator.

http://twitter.com/DavidWinderlich
At least he’s trying to start a hashtag – #davidteam . This MP interacts at least within every 10 tweets, but doesn’t always appear to be David tweeting, as it’s been written in the third person, ie

“… thanks mate, check out David’s website at http://www.davidwinderlich.com thanks for your support #DavidTeam”

Michael Pengilly has protected his tweets. http://twitter.com/MichaelPengilly What’s up with that? Is he following only? Why use Twitter if you don’t want to chat with others in a public forum? (ps Michael, change your colour design! Ouch).

And now we come to the exception to the rule – Dr Jane Lomax Smith, tourism and education minister, who’s been using Twitter for quite some time. http://twitter.com/DrJaneLS

Dr Lomax-Smith often responds and interacts with followers, shares more personal information, (such as what she’s looking forward to for dinner tonight), funny anecdotes and blunders and shows personality:

“ Can’t stand reading tweets from fitness fanatics about rides runs and swims while bothered by calf injury and sulking around house”.

Of course, she also talks politics and spruiks what her government is doing. But she gets points for replying to followers and being real. Dr Lomax-Smith needs to grab her colleagues and run a Twitter workshop.

What have you noticed from SA pollies on Twitter? I’m especially interested to know if they’re direct-replying rather than publicly replying.

If they are DM-ing, why? If they have something to say to a constituent, surely they want to share that information with all of us?

Note: since publishing this blog, I’ve received numerous tweets to say Premier Mike Rann used to interact and reply to followers, but this appears to have dropped off during recent weeks. [23 Feb 2010.]

Twitter encourages live TV viewing

On the back of all commentary about “the internet killing mainstream media …” 

.. consider how Twitter encourages live TV viewing.

Twitter encourages TV viewing
Twitter encourages TV viewing

Have you ever sat back in front of the tele, relaxing in your favourite armchair, with your mobile phone open to Twitter?

If you answered Yes, you’re not the only one.

I’m increasingly enjoying watching live TV with a gang of friends – on Twitter.

While some people may have been doing this for some time, it only recently kicked in for me during My Kitchen Rules, the Channel 7 ‘reality’ series pitting passionate cooking couples against each other. I’ve been enjoying tweeting comments about the show and sharing views with others. We tweet about what the Kitchen couples are like, how the food looks, and how hot the celebrity chefs are. All brought together under a hash tag (one of the superior evolutions of Twitter).

On any given night of the week, you’ll find similar hash tag debates bringing Australian lounge rooms together: #spicksandspecks #cougartown #lost and much more. Longer show titles get a shortened version, such as #mkr for My Kitchen Rules or #sytycd (So You Think You Can Dance).

So, what are TV stations doing to capitalise on this?

I must admit I was surprised to see Daryl Somers gloating about Hey Hey It’s Saturday being a trending topic on Twitter some months ago, when Hey Hey had a comeback special. Still not sure he knows what Twitter is … but besides this, have you seen many TV corporation references to Twitter?

Free to air television is finding its environment increasingly competitive, with audiences being pulled toward downloading content, DVDs, and viewing on demand without commercials in general.

Now, its strength just may be in encouraging audiences to watch alongside pals online as the show airs in real time, enjoying the show in an interactive forum they’ve never been able to experience before.

Last night, I tweeted about My Kitchen Rules for the entire program. And you know what’s really interesting for TV channels – and their advertisers? I tweeted about the commercials during the show. So did my tweet pals. We critiqued the commercials, the advocates featured in them, the creative used and how we felt about them.

There’s some real audience connection, market research and advocacy going on.
Let me know if you’ve seen TV stations encouraging social media take up anywhere.

Interesting articles:

Live TV’s Alive as Ever, Boosted by Social Media

TV and Social Media Engagement

Seconds to impact

We’ve all heard this maxim about websites: you’ve got less than 10 seconds to impress (or is that 6 seconds, or 3? It all depends on which blog you read). But have you ever stopped to think that websites aren’t alone in this?

First impressions count. We all have seconds to make an impact before a) interest wanes b) a person makes assumptions about you or c) a person falls in love with you(according to Hollywood).

This maxim occurred to me again recently, as I wandered in and out of clothing stores. It took only seconds for me to recognise whether a store had any merchandise that appealed to me.

Sure, I might politely wander around for a few more seconds, say hello to the shop assistant, touch some fabric – but I would know almost immediately whether I was going to spend any money there.

On websites, when visitors leave quickly it’s often called your site’s “bounce rate”. How long they stay can be referred to as a site’s “stickiness”.
I haven’t worked in the retail sector, but I’d love to know if there is research on their stores’ stickiness. I’m sure there is.

In supermarkets, they do try to influence this. They stock the essentials right at the back of the store, ensuring you spend more time there as you traverse your way down the aisles. (Think about where the milk, eggs and bread is stored in your local supermarket).

Websites clearly shouldn’t be burying their useful information. But what lessons can websites take from supermarkets – if any? “Dressing your storefront” to appeal to customers is an obvious one.

Websites have one clear advantage over the physical stores. Website analytics. It’s easy to show how many users leave after a few seconds. I wonder if shop assistants are taking any notes?

Have you ever worked in retail? Any stories to share?

The 5 great myths of the Censor SA debate

This is a blog about South Australia’s new internet commentary laws. For background, you might want to read this article on AdelaideNow .

Myth 1:If you’ve got something to say, you should be brave enough to put your name to it

Guess what. We’re not all brave, chest-beating types prepared for the wrath of family, friends and colleagues based on what we’re written.

There are legitimate reasons for people to want to blog anonymously. Take these scenarios:

· Government is proposing new laws on child abuse. A woman has been abused as a child; she wants to take part in the debate but doesn’t want to let her partner know of her past just yet. She writes an anonymous blog. Outlawed under SA censorship law.

· Government proposes new immigration laws. Man wants to support them, but is afraid to share his name and address because of the ethnicity of the community he lives in, where there is high sensitivity to the issue. He outlines his well-thought out comments in a blog without using his real address. Outlawed under SA censorship law.

· Married couple decides to write a story (let’s face it, that’s what forms many blogs) about their experience living in the same street as a bikie gang, also debating anti-bikie laws. They decide not to publish their name and address because they don’t want a Molotov cocktail thrown onto their front lawn or Harley Davison’s riding past at all hours. Outlawed.

· A man’s employer has made it clear where he stands on the subject of a new local development. The employer is overbearing and petty. The man feels differently – he wants to protect his local park. He writes a blog to share with other community members, but doesn’t sign his name in case his employer can identify him … outlawed.

It’s okay for journalists to use confidential sources. And anonymous columns (particularly political) have been a media stalwart for centuries. How so? We need to recall the reasons for this, to understand what is so wrong with the new SA censorship laws.

Journalists use confidential sources so that source can speak without fear. Anonymous columns are published for great debate to be shared rather than hidden. Which brings me to my next myth …

Myth 2:Bloggers only want to share outrageous, defamatory comments

Mr Atkinson has said he wants people to stop calling him outrageous names. In an email to me, he said it’d be nice if people refrained from calling him a ‘kiddy-fiddler, paedophile, douche bag ..’
I can’t begin to outline how paranoid and self centred the laws are.

I’m a blogger. I’m not interested in calling Mr Atkinson any names. And yet the new laws would have affected me.

Many bloggers are eloquent, cautious people who take time to think through debate. They may or may not like to use curious pseudonyms. They have their own readers and followers. They usually allow comment on their blogs, and are ready to debate on their blogs. They are also governed by the same defamation laws as the rest of the public.

Believe it or not, there are bloggers who like to write about issues; their world doesn’t revolve around anonymously defaming politicians.

Myth 3: “I’m not interested in what you have to say unless you put your name to it”

Really? Content is king – and for my money, I reckon you’ll read great content whether it’s signed or not. It’s human nature.

‘Anonymous’ is one of the most prolific, funny, sarcastic, witty and pertinent writers of our time.
If we didn’t like to read comments unless they had the name and address of the author, the many ‘Diary of a …’ publications would never be read.

In election periods, I would have thought the veracity of the debate, the genius behind the ideas, were always more compelling than whether or not it’s signed.

The most boring pieces you’ll ever read? Those signed by a politician, with their profile picture published alongside. And why is that? They’ve got their name attached, so they’re scared to say anything of substance …

Myth 4: Bloggers are the 17-year-old ‘net generation’

Attorney General Michael Atkinson – and some mainstream media commentators – has contributed to the myth that the censorship laws were overturned to meet the needs of the ‘blogger generation’. Mr Atkinson even went so far as to say he consulted his own children, who helped attune him to the expectations of ‘young bloggers’.

Young people aren’t bloggers. They aren’t even microbloggers (that is Twitter by the way).
By and large, they focus on Facebook, SMS and email. They want to talk to their friends, not debate policy with strangers. This has been backed up by published research this week.

The people up in arms about the censorship laws and most active are 30+ and, dare I say 40+.
Anyone with a real interest in public debate should hook into Twitter, the ultimate debating forum. In my Twitter stream over the past week, it’s been people in the 30+ age bracket who have been up in arms over Michael Atkinson’s actions.

I’m 39. I have ethical standards. I am sensitive to others. People opposing the censorship laws were most decidedly not young ‘net gens who imagine they can get away with anything online, in some abstract new brutal netiquette age.

Myth 5: The new laws are all about honesty

The new laws are all about protecting politicians.

If they were about honesty, they’d exist outside the election period.

The laws are completely politician-centric. Mr Atkinson’s comments about the names he’s been called confirm this. Some people want to debate policy and social change and guess what –sometimes this can be achieved without mentioning a single politician’s name!

The new laws are about making it more difficult for party stooges to enter debate anonymously. But in trying to protect pollies and make political hacks more accountable, they’re reducing safety for the general public. We need to err on the side of safety for the rest of us; politicians have entered the political fray, they’re protected by defamation laws, and need to ‘take their lumps’ as Mr Atkinson would say.

Why do I blog?
Please don’t debate about blogs or social media if you don’t understand them.

Why did I choose to write this as a blog?
· This text wouldn’t fit in a Letter to the Editor
· I can publish my own blog – maybe other publishers wouldn’t consider it fit to print
· I can share my views with my connections
· It helps me think through my views – and indeed, debate myself

As always, I’d be glad to read your comments.

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