Opinion – Twitter: powerful campaign tool or waste of effort?

The simple tweet “F*ck” at 10am with the reply “Agreed” last Friday was the only source and all the evidence I required to know that Chris Huhne had been charged. Two words tied emotion with cognition. I followed Nick Clegg’s tax cut speech live through the medium of 140 character paraphrase: a sort of Focus-speak reduction I can only imagine would have the speech-writers crying. The utterance “Borgen – Danish West Wing” was all the persuasion necessary to watch it religiously.

Twitter is free, fast and tragic. And if it wasn’t powerful in facilitating the fall of dictators or mindless riots, governments wouldn’t consider using its censorship option. 39 of our 57 Lib Dem MPs use it and our party president Tim Farron assures me he can help us to improve on that. But should they bother with any new technology that isn’t proven to add value? Retweeting ICM polls from an iPhone won’t improve our electoral fortunes (but keep trying anyway). If our MPs want to replace paper with iPads perhaps they should buy their own and truly embrace CONNECT.

We can’t waste precious campaign time, every second invested should increase our returns at the ballot box. The more tangible gift to our residents in the form of a 4 foot pile of literature provides us with greater reassurance than online banter, assuming something more positive happened on the way to the round filing cabinet recycling box.

You can use social media to add value, through following or leading – to engage people as Julian Huppert does. He tests opinion through tweeting polls to his audience, such as “what do you want me to ask at PMQs?” and it delivers spot on results. That third-party testimonial is a ready-made Focus vox-pop.

Councillor Jamie Matthews represents students and aptly chooses to challenge poor internet service provision on their behalf over Twitter. Councillor Victor Chamberlain also regularly uses it to report back on his ward activities. We’re all probably familiar with “20 is plenty” speed reduction campaigns, yet there’s something motivating about watching the action unfold, leaving a digital campaign trail, from council chamber motion to action photo. This helps to spread best-practice activity among other campaigners.

We repeatedly ask “what’s new?” of our friends, family and now, followers. Irrelevant, old information just isn’t worth sharing. We merge communicating with the people closest to us with less deserving online strangers. Like-minded individuals are drawn to one another through statements, photos and web links.

Loosely-affiliated groups form around shared opinions, oppose other groups and do constant battle. Some win at the expense of another, opinions become exhausted, or expire to give birth to others. Groups disband and regroup, gaining some people formerly on the opposing side of another issue.

Whether using it as a blunt broadcast instrument, to shape debate through persuasion or gather intelligence, you alone are not going to make the country a better place through it. But your individual participation may help build the team to get us there.

* Alan Muhammed is Liberal Reform Co-Chair & works as a Management Consultant. He is a former Guildford Borough Councillor & Lib Dem HQ Campaigns Staffer.

Read more by or more about , , , , or .
This entry was posted in Online politics and Op-eds.
Advert

3 Comments

  • Sue Doughty 10th Feb '12 - 9:31am

    With large numbers of MPs now on Twitter, campaigners should make sure that they are following and hoping to get followed. MPs, by the nature of the work they do, have a short concentration window and glancing through Twitter to see what is happening is always easier than ploughing through lengthy reports.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Helen Dudden
    Restricting heating wont help. Black mould has been a culture in the many years of social housing. The lack of repairs, housing that was not that great to st...
  • Geoff Reid
    As a Methodist my instincts are usually to avoid interfering in private grief. However while the influence of bishops in the Lords may be marginal, this is grea...
  • Mick Taylor
    I rather fear that this sort of casual racism is far more common that any of us like to admit. I remember canvassing in a by-election that the BNP won. I, perh...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    When my mother was in her 90s and suffering from Alzheimer's I took in a photo of Obama and explained that he was the new US President. "Oh, he's a negro!" she ...
  • expats
    I clicked on a link to 'Petsy' Wyatt, it took me to the 'Mail' comments page; 'nuff said'!...