MPs on Social Media

David Cameron caused a stir last week when he finally hopped aboard the social media bandwagon. This move was quite unexpected as he was famously quoted as saying that “too many tweets might make a tw*t” in a radio interview. He was of course referring to those who use Twitter in an absent-minded way and don’t realise the significance of social broadcasting. Cameron’s twitter account is only 12 tweets old, and so far he’s amassed over 113,000 followers, while only following 35 users.

In the same week a report was released by Parliament Street which aims to give politicians guidelines to follow for effective social media usage. The report was commissioned to give politicians a helping hand in reaching out to their constituents and addressing the problem of apathy among voters. So far, Cameron seems to be falling short on many of the suggestions offered in the report. His twitter feed, although only 12 tweets long, is dry, lacks any sense of personality and appears overly scripted and one-directional.

He’s not entirely to blame, as he’s been subject to a barrage of abuse since his first tweet; it would be difficult to engage in any meaningful conversation amidst all the name-calling. The report clearly highlights the importance of not getting sucked in to a “slanging match” online, as this will be broadcast to all of your followers, and most likely re-tweeted further afield. “Kill them with kindness is a good benchmark to go by” is the advice given in the report.

Given the public response to Cameron’s new venture into social media, it might be fair to assume that some people just aren’t cut out to have a presence on Twitter. Being funny, informative, thought-provoking and interesting in 140 characters or less is difficult. And if you’re not very popular to start with, it would take a PR miracle to help turn public opinion long enough to engage in any meaningful dialogue.

What’s interesting about the report is that the guidelines could easily be applied to anyone in the public eye – there’s no reason to say that it only applies to politicians. So if you’re looking for a quick refresher in Twitter PR, here’s the key take-away from the report.

Social Media Advice For Public Figures

1. You can just use social media as a one way communication tool, but this isn’t advisable. However, it is better than not being on social media at all.

2. If someone mentions you in a good light, it’s good etiquette to thank them.

3. Don’t drink and tweet – it’s best to not allow yourself any access to your twitter account after a certain time, as a few drinks in your system can make you think you’re a lot funnier than you really are.

4. Don’t respond emotionally to abusive tweets, and don’t be too quick to block users just for sending less than flattering tweets.

5. Get your head about social media or get left behind.