Indy bigs up Mark Pack but exposes Twitter’s weakness

The Independent today asksCould the next election finally provide a reason for the [Twitter] microblogging service?

There are many reasons for Twitter, some better than others, but if today’s Independent article is anything to go by, the General Election won’t be one of them.

“It’s Twitter that will make this election unique.”, the Indy proclaims, before going on to show why that claim is almost certainly not true.

The paper lists the political twitterati, a mixture – it turns out – of established figures doing a bit of tweeting and political bloggers.

Most excitingly for us at Lib Dem Voice, our very own Mark Pack snuggles between Vince Cable and Lynne Featherstone as one of three “Liberals” (I could have sworn the party changed its name a couple of decades ago) on the list.

Likewise for the other parties, names familiar to the blogging fraternity but unknown to the wider millions of voters (Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie, Tory Bear, Ellie Gellard) snuggle up with a handful of better known political figures (Alastair Campbell, John Prescott).

But look at the number of followers.

Amongst those tweeting from a political party standpoint, the number of followers of these microblogging kings and queens stretches from around 12,000 at the top (Campbell, Prescott) down to between one and two thousand (still a great deal more followers than I’ve got, by the way).

Iain Dale, one of the two top bloggers in the country, has 7,299 followers.

Now reflect on how you win General Elections. You focus on the floating voters in your marginal constituencies.

None of the political twitterers has more followers than there are residents in a single metropolitan borough ward, never mind parliamentary constituency.

How many votes can Iain Dale seriously swing in key Tory target seats? A handful at best.

In contrast, targeted mail, leaflets, posters and mainstream media coverage reaches millions of people across the country and, the case of the first three, can be directed to those areas where they’re most needed.

Does Twitter enable those Twitterers to get positive attention they would otherwise not have managed, that leads onto vote-winning media coverage? Rarely.

Twitter may be an excellent way for reaching friends, colleagues, supporters and followers. It may well be a useful communication tool in some circumstances.

But a General Election game changer? Not this year.

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10 Comments

  • Twitter may be an excellent way for reaching friends, colleagues, supporters and followers

    Do you really think it even does that compared to FB? I’m still scratching my head as to its uses. It seems a gimmick that will look like flared trousers at the end of this decade.

  • I use twitter to get the news via twitter feeds and by following a few freelance journalists and bloggers. As a source of news and political gossip it is excellant but I don’t know how well it would work for speaking to voters. A politician could reach me through twitter if I already knew of and respected them. And I’m a bit of a news junky, so it seems to me that it is a terrible way of reaching ordinary, non-alligned voters. Certainly no one will be elected if all they do is tweet (unless the other candidates don’t campaign at all)

  • Crispin Driver 10th Feb '17 - 10:27am

    Reading this a few years on, and it is remarkable how things have changed – to the extent that we now have a US President who seems to be using Twitter as his prime, unfiltered public communication channel.

    On a more positive note, Twitter is now an essential *part* of the whole communications mix and we write it off at our peril. At the very least, for activists it can be a very effective way of engaging directly with others at all levels – people who it would simply not be possible to make contact with via more conventional means.

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