Gordon Brown can take some comfort this week. What, after handwriting -gate and a difficult time at PMQs. If the influence of the Labour Party on Twitter were translated into votes for the Government, Brown and the bunker strategists would be licking their lips at the prospect of a salacious Parliamentary majority of 450: more than the number of seats Labour won at the 1997 General Election. So goes the electoral world, according to Edelman’s TweetLevel analysis.
A psephological fantasy it may be, but there is a clever point to Tweetlevel. The crux of it is a sophisticated analysis of influence, trust, popularity and engagement on Twitter – all good measures of a politician’s salt. The cynics among us may, cry why does this matter? If you want to know who’s really hitting the grass roots, who’s really getting their message out there and who really has resonance, Twitter is a fairly important tool in the box.
Not all is well in tweeting politics (or “Twolitics”) however for the PM: his ever popular tweeting wife, Sarah, is more trusted than he is. With nearly 1 million followers, and tweets on fashion, Oprah and pre-natal mortality, she has clearly struck a chord with the nation’s heart. If politics is show business for ugly people, so the saying goes, then the PM’s wife is the Cheryl Cole of Westminster.
Picture the scenario, however. On polling day Mrs Brown tweets to her (probably now in excess of a million) followers to get out and vote. Is that a million more votes for the Government? Probably not; but it’s an influential block if you consider who else, other than the main parties, have that level of mobilising influence.
What TweetLevel underlines is the changing communications landscape we live in. If 2008 were the year Twitter barked, then 2009 is the year it woke the neighbours.
It’s not worth treading old water on the ever growing use and presence of social media. But it is worth noting the increasing importance of blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube for political communications.
Research conducted by Edelman suggests nearly half of Parliamentary staffers research policy issues using blogs on a weekly basis, and 18% change their minds based on online sources. Add to this the near one fifth of staffers who use Facebook to swot up on policy; you’re looking at a new, relatively unexplored channel of communication and influencers with policy makers.
People and politicians are fast waking up to the rise of social media in our industry. This year, Channel 4 hosted the first ever Twitter Fringe (“Twinge”) event during the party conferences. Tom Watson MP has set up a Facebook forum to defend video games from “sensationalist” bashing by the right wing press.
What’s clear is that websites, blogs, Facebook and even Twitter are all playing an increasingly important role in supplementing and supporting more traditional means of political communication, and those who ignore their seemingly inexorable rise, well, you can draw you own conclusions.