Gordon Brown had hardly uttered the last syllable of the word ‘bigoted’ and already the Twitterverse was awash with Tweets about the Prime Minister’s supposed gaffe. Opposition Tweeters were gleeful in their condemnation of the PM – using tags like #bigotgate to propagate the story – while ordinary folk – yours truly included – waded in with their views in 140 characters or less. Strangely, the Labour Tweeters were – at the time of writing this post – noticeably silent. I don’t blame them to be honest.
Ignoring the rights and wrongs of the PM’s comment, this issue highlights yet again the power of Twitter in the run up to the general election. Writing in the Media Guardian on April 26th, Roy Greenslade said it was impossible to say how influential Twitter will be have come May 6th but the tone of his article suggested that Twitter would and already was having some form of influence. I agree completely.
Thanks to Twitter, I’ve found out that a former male glamour model who was kicked out of the Lib Dems for sending sexually explicit texts has been barred from standing as a Labour candidate in the election. I also know that Vince Cable has become a popular muse for musicians looking to pen a tune about installing him as Chancellor and that David Cameron can be made to look like Elvis with just a few strokes of a black marker. Marvellous.
Silliness aside, for me Twitter is making the election far more engaging. Reading endless political blog posts is dull, whereas I’ll happily read Tweets from all sides of the house. Like most people I suspect, I’d rather stick red hot pokers somewhere intimate than watch an election broadcast on TV but I’ll happily read a policy Tweet and click through to link on a party’s website. Twitter is also ace for debating with friends and randoms without getting drawn into heated debates that normally end with the line “I can’t believe you vote ***king Tory.”
The fact that I’m going to ***king vote at all is probably down to Twitter and I encourage everyone to get involved. Follow a few good (in terms of active) political Tweeters . Diversify, don’t just stick with your political allegiances and don’t be afraid to engage in debate just make sure you have something to say with your 140 characters.
And for PRs reading this, you can pick up real insight into how stories are broken and managed by following how a political story breaks and then develops within Twitter. You get a 360 view of all sides of an argument or incident and thanks to the 140 character limit, you tend to get the key information rather than the associated waffle that you get in the off-line world.
For the record, I don’t think Twitter is going to dictate who wins the general election but I do think it has allowed many more people than would previously have gotten involved in the debate to easily access and engage in the election process. So it’s definitely played a part.