Facebook it, twitters, it’s social media

This is the column I wrote for the Canberra Weekly on Thursday about the use of twitter by our ACT MLA’s. As you can see, for many it’s still a mystery.
Twitter copped a pretty bad rap during the Olympics. It was blamed for Australia losing basketball matches, for losing certain gold medals and generally for distracting most of our Olympians.
There’s no doubt it’s infectious. Follow the right people and it’s quite entertaining. And everyone seems to be doing it – athletes, politicians, celebrities, news organisations, and Mr and Mrs Joe Blow. Used properly, it can be a pretty powerful tool.
So with the ACT election only months away, are our politicians embracing this new form of mass communication? Generally, no.
There are some exceptions. And the Labor Party, with one notable absentee, has been far more active. Andrew Barr is the social media king among the local politicians. He’s prolific on Facebook, and has also taken to Twitter with relish. As of earlier this week, Barr had tweeted 4,715 times, more than double the next most active, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.
Simon Corbell and Chris Bourke have both tweeted well over 1000 times, while Joy Burch is fast approaching four figures.
Of the rest of the Assembly, Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan is the only other politician who has really embraced Twitter, with more than 1000 tweets. Barr, Gallagher, Corbell and Bresnan all tweet several times daily.
The Liberal Party has shown little interest in Twitter. Leader Zed Seselja has tweeted just 363 times, and can go for weeks without action. His deputy, Brendan Smyth, has used Twitter on just 25 occasions, and can go for months without logging on. The most prolific Liberal tweeter is the Party’s young buck, Alistair Coe, who has sent out more than 600.
Of more interest, in an election sense, is who has the most followers. I’m sure Andrew Barr is a little peeved that his leader, despite not being as prolific, has around 100 more followers. The next most popular is their Labor colleague, Simon Corbell, more than 1000 followers behind.
As of this week, MLA’s and their followers went as follows; Gallagher (ALP) 2734, Barr (ALP) 2633, Corbell (ALP) 1706, Burch (ALP) 1270, Coe (Lib) 1176, Seselja (Lib) 701, Rattenbury (Grn) 616, Bourke (ALP) 613, Hanson (Lib) 597, Bresnan (Grn) 517, Hunter (Grn) 375, Le Couteur (Grn) 364, Dunne (Lib) 260, Smyth (Lib) 234, Doszpot (Lib) 164 and Porter (ALP) 134.
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a Twitter account for outgoing Labor MLA John Hargreaves.
What does this all mean? Probably not much. Whoever forms Government in October won’t do so on the back of a massive social media campaign.
But it would be foolish for any candidate to ignore an opportunity to get their message across. Surveys have shown Canberrans have embraced social media, and Twitter especially, in far greater numbers than nearly all the rest of the country.
Just as long as our candidates remember two basic rules; never tweet when you’re angry, and NEVER tweet when you’ve been drinking. The social media road is littered with the carcasses of many who thought their drunken 140 character missive was hilarious.



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