Every politician who’s anyone these days seems to be on twitter. In Australia Malcolm Turnbull got the ball rolling back in 2008 with Kevin Rudd getting on board slightly thereafter. Direct to the public these politicians issue these little messages without it seems, any particularly focussed purpose.
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey is known to often tweet directly from the seats of parliament.
For my money political sloganeering on twitter, such as Julia Gillard’s “#cashforyou” rubbish is rarely effective. Most people who follow a politician on twitter know where they stand and what they believe and without being able to contextualize in either more lengthy writing or better still tone of voice and facial expressions, these comments can come across as craggy and unendearing.
Twitter best serves politicians as a device to humanize them, let the public in on their leisure activities or their passions. Kevin Rudd likes to tweet about his cat Jasper, about his recently becoming a grandfather and about how bad he is at cooking. It’s effective, it fits into the Rudd narrative and endears Rudd to his followers by letting them know about harmless yet humanizing details of his life. Malcolm Turnbull pitches more at the intelligentsia than Rudd but it’s the same effect, he tweets about the latest book he’s reading, a music concert he’s been to or a meeting he’s had with some intellectual type. It adds layers of depth and intrigue to these men who are otherwise just mouthpieces for political policies. What does Julia Gillard like, apart from AFL? On Qanda this week she spoke of knitting and it actually personalize her a bit more. She should use twitter to this end.
Turnbull and Rudd also like to reply to tweets when they can which is a good luck. Getting a dignified and respesctful response from someone in a position of authority is gratifying, plain and simple. Tony Abbott has recently begun doing the same with his “#asktony” sessions, an idea he borrowed of Kevin Rudd.
Barry O’farrell’s tweets are often partisan and unproductive.
To offer an example of someone who is doing it wrong, the Premier of NSW Barry O’farrell is a prolific yet ill advised tweeter. Recently he’s been tweeting that the NSW leader of the opposition, John Robertson is bad at economics. Well gee whiz I never would have thought to have heard a Liberal Premier say that about a Labor leader. I suppose O’farrell has always been pretty no-nonsense, it’s a style that works for him but if that’s the case maybe he needn’t worry too much about updating his twitter feed. Twitter is all about the nonsense.