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.]

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