Why our peers need to embrace rather than shun social media

 

There has never been a day when the Liberal Democrats have been happy with their media coverage. We just don’t get our fair share, and when we do our liberal ideals are often squeezed in a way that makes us uncomfortable. It has always been hard talking about liberalism. It is why we focus so much attention to get our own message out through leaflet and now via email and social media. It is amazing to now have access to channels where we can broadcast what we are doing that can get to a mass audience without the filter of a biased media.

So I am disappointed to see that another Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords announced they are pulling the plug on their social media account. As our presence in the upper chamber has grown, our ability to communicate our every day liberal deeds seems to diminish. Ex Chief Executive and communications professional Chris Fox announced the closing of his social media accounts on the day he was elevated (thanks mate!). Others have never even tried to get to grips with sending out an email, let alone new form of social media. Every day our peers are working hard and telling no one. I despair.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no time for bullies on social media, even less when those trolls are also members. But rather than work out a solution peers are just closing their accounts or deciding they can’t even be bothered to find a solution. I now question why I keep sending money to the party to help our communication efforts when those in a position of power and influence refuse to master the free channels available to them. Not only does this affect the public view of liberalism but it seems to be polarising the party further into the idea that the Lords are an ‘elite’ party member with different rules to everyone else and that long standing members shun rather than mentor new activists.

So I challenge our peers to get together and find some solutions. Here are some of my thoughts as a start:

  1. Blog and tweet as a team. No one needs to run their own blog or even their own twitter account. A general peers blog site where you can write a short piece on what you have been doing and then tweet it out on a generic twitter handle is a really good start. You could start handles for specific teams if there is lots of activity. Take it in turns to keep an eye of the feed. This shares the load, develops skills and takes the personal nature out of some of these more immediate forms of communication. It is easy to do. Tweeting as an entity, rather than an individual, reduces trolling.
  2. Email is still queen in this social media age. I understand that the Lords email list has only 3000 people on it. That is pathetic. What are you doing to add people to the list so the word gets out?
  3. Proactively find the people you want to get your news or follow you – from journalists to opinion formers and make sure they are signed up to hear more from the team. Be proud to share what you are doing. See engaging influencers proactively as the prize for dealing with a few idiots. Give the peer who signs up the most new email subscribers a free cup of tea!
  4. Write small filler pieces for our councillors and candidates leaflets/blogs and social media. They don’t have a choice as to whether to communicate or not; they have both the space and the inclination to broadcast your news. You do things every day that can help them promote liberalism, so help them.
  5. Develop a policy to deal with trolls and bullies. This is not a new problem. Don’t be shy about sharing on what basis you will block and ban people who over step the mark. Allocate someone who can help deal with problems as the arise rather than after they have escalated – just as you would have done in the days of letters with green ink.
  6. Separate your personal and professional profiles, so you can still benefit from the positive nurturing vibes of being in contact with friends and loved ones.

Some of our Lords are doing amazing work – it is just sad that no one ever knows about it.

There are peers who do communicate well – I have not tried to name them as I will miss a few out, and instead focused on those that have actively absented themselves from communicating.

 

* Laura Willoughby MBE is a Lib Dem member in Islington

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4 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 21st Jun '16 - 9:33pm

    The fact is that Email is an increasingly inefficient and ineffective means of communication (it used to be very good but is ever more useless).

    (1) A “third of people” do not read their emails. (2) Another “third of people” look at them (or at least they look to see who it is from and possibly read the first line) – then never look at it again. (3) The remaining “third of people” still deal with them reasonably efficiently.

    Why is this? Not sure of all the reasons but I guess they include the quantity people now get, competition from Facebook, Twitter and other such stuff (much of it rubbish but not all), and receipt on “devices” they carry around with them – seen on the fly, automatically marked as read, and never dealt with properly.

    Then there is all the stuff that someone or some algorithm out there decides is junk. Outlook junks all the emails I get from our Whips office! What have I done to be so lucky?

    Tony

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jun '16 - 12:43am

    This site is the best place !
    I was at a meeting organised by the party, that was a question and answer format with Nick clegg ,the other day ,and was sat near someone I recognised , who I was originally introduced to by this very site and her excellent contributions here, and of course generally , and on refugees , particularly ,none other than Baroness Shas Sheehan! I spoke to her and told her how valuable that contribution is !

    The fact is the best place online is a site with camararderie, other than that an individual website .But who can blame anyone from withdrawing from those sites and forums that attract abuse .I certainly do not .

  • Geoffrey Payne 22nd Jun '16 - 9:40am

    Social media is a time trap. By all means use it but be careful if you are busy.

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