Should politicians use social media?

Social media and politicans

As part of Social Media Week London, the MintTwist blog takes a social media focus and today we’re talking about politics! We’re also hosting a Twitter party on Thursday as part of Social Media Week London.

From those awkward sharenting moments that can never be unseen to discovering amazing new songs from your friend’s Spotify activity, social media has revolutionised the way we consume information and communicate.

They’ve taken the bull by the horns and tweeted ‘#YOLO’.

It’s hard to believe Facebook is less than 10 years old and Twitter launched in 2006. I have jeans older than that. (Who am I kidding? They’ll never fit again – I need to throw them away.)

Big brands and Twitter

Blockbuster films are promoted with Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags. Broadcasters include hashtags in title sequences. Even popstars are getting in on the act – will.i.am’s latest album was called #willpower and Mariah Carey’s newest single is #Beautiful.

Big brands have also started to get on board. I love Tesco’s approach to Twitter. They’ve taken the bull by the horns and tweeted ‘#YOLO’.

Tesco’s customer care Twitter account does a fantastic job at being helpful while bringing a massive dollop of personality. Complaints on social media can quickly spiral out of control and become PR disasters.

tesco-1

tesco-customer-care-twitter

But there is one area that has struggled to rise to the social media challenge.

Politics.

Between the economy and unemployment, is there time for politicians to use Twitter?

You would think that the nature of politics and social media meant they’d be best friends. Should David Cameron be au fait with Snapchat or should he be focused on the NHS?

Just take a look at the responses he received when he tweeted about Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win (warning, some people are passionate and it gets trolly).

Perhaps David simply doesn’t get it. He tweets the political equivalent of the turgid stereotype that Twitter is full of what people had for breakfast.

He also made the terrible faux pas of mentioning a parody Iain Duncan Smith account resulting in yet more headdesking by the twitterati.

Two politicians who get it right are Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ed Balls.

Boris regularly makes use of #AskBoris – a hashtag where you can ask him questions.

boris-johnson-twitter

While some of the questions are superfluous, it’s an important example of someone with a lot of political power using social media earnestly.

Ed Balls

There’s no escaping that the focus is politics but he finds time to engage with individuals.

ed-balls-twitter

And let’s not forget Ed Balls Day. Ed’s tweeting of his own name has gone viral. At the time of writing, the original tweet has been retweeted over 20,000 times and favourite over 8,000 times since 2011. Ed got in on the fun when he retweeted it himself on Ed Balls Day this year.

So should politicians use social media?

When used well it can be a great way for people to learn about the people they trust to run the country.

But we also know that people aren’t shy in coming forward. And while abuse should not be tolerated, politicians will need to learn ignoring the issues on social media can make them far worse.

In time, I hope more politicians learn how to use social media properly. There shouldn’t be a half-baked approach. Either you invest the time or quickly get left behind.

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