UK Times journalist Rod Liddle can barely hide is contempt for Twitter and its proponents who claim to be “changing the World in 140 characters”.  Liddle is referring to the uncompromising (sometimes pompous) pronouncements made by politicians to various leaders of the Libyan government:
• “My message to Saif Qadhafi today: violence we are seeing against the Libyan people is unacceptable” (@WilliamJHague; UK Foreign Minister) 
“Great honour to Egypt today. People Power has forced regime change. Needs equal focus and discipline to bring in something better” (@DMiliband; ex UK Foreign Minister)

Given that these messages appear aimed directly at the regime of another country; I wonder if Twitter is the most appropriate medium. 

“I tried to see if ol’ Saif had responded online to this stinging rebuke — perhaps with an ‘Oh, bugger me, you’re quite right, William — we’ll call off the bombings and relinquish power immediately’. But no luck. Saif probably tweets under a different name,” muses Liddle of Hague´s message.

“ . . one assumes the bloodied and determined Egyptian democrats stopped in their tracks at this important missive and immediately gathered together to thrash out a more disciplined and focused approach to social change. Thank you, David — valuable advice. Please go on,” he adds with respect to Milliband´s words of encouragement. 

In the most blatant example of ‘bigging up’ the medium, Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United and England football captain, claimed that he and other Twitter users “are involved (if not directly)in a powerful #movement ! …” (@rioferdy5).

With all due respect Rio . . . . we are not. We are simply exchanging opinions on football, the state of your back injury, Man Yoo’s failed attempt to rebuff a rejuvenated Liverpool FC this weekend, quite how Ferguson continues to flout broadcast regulations, and how he is turning into Kevin The Teenager.

And here is the shame . . . . As a social media platform Twitter can provide a valuable and unique support for those looking to deliver the most sensitive message to the most specific of audiences; the key is that Twitter not just about the Tweet.

The Twitter platform can provide a wealth of information about a particular audience, where it meets, what subjects it cares about, with what frequency and style it communicates, who are the idea starters, who are the amplifiers.  It can also provide this level of detail about a subject or theme; who is leading the discussion, do these people remain constant or does leadership vary over time or cyclically, on what other platforms are these themes addressed (traditional media, blogs, other communities, physical meetings etc)?  Tools such as Edelman’s TweetLevel can deliver analysis by audience or theme, level of engagement, the trust or authority associated with each contributor, all of which can be broken down on the basis of geography or language.

This powerful insight can be delivered without the necessity of making a single Tweet.  The shame being that for many – from Rod Liddle to Rio Ferdinand – Twitter simply means Tweeting. 

And this misapprehension gives social media in general a bad name because it assumes that – in the final analysis – everything can and should be broken down to 140 characters; which is really missing the point. 

In some instances Twitter may be the most appropriate medium on which to communicate or participate in dialogue with a given audience; but in others it is wholly inappropriate.  Perhaps discreet diplomatic channels would have been more appropriate method of influencing the Libyan regime (telephone calls, summits, relationship meetings, official (confidential) memos etc).  Government to government communication via Twitter just seems wrong in this context.

However, the insight that platforms such as Twitter can provide into a target audience or theme remains both invaluable but all too often neglected.   This analysis should help define how a given message can be credibly delivered whether through face to face meetings, traditional media, telephone calls, roundtables, third party events, blogs, conferences, or – indeed – a Twitter feed. 

A final word to those Twitter incontinents out there; to “use Twitter” does not necessarily mean to “Tweet”.


# # #

The upcoming General Election has been branded ‘the social media election’, with many claiming that this is the first British Election where social media will make the difference. Although we must be careful not to overstate the importance of ‘the online debate’, the use of social media has really come to the fore and is bringing a whole new audience to politics who might not have previously engaged before. It was social media that was credited with being pivotal in the success of Barack Obama’s 2008 US election campaign. The direct connections that Obama was able to forge with voters added extra depth to an already strong candidate.

Now for the first time ever, the general public can ask party leaders questions directly via their favourite social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. People can post articles, YouTube videos and photos which can be distributed much more widely and quickly through social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter can be thanked for an increase in the number of people who have registered to vote this year.  There is even a Facebook application that allows people to write or film questions for Gordon Brown, David Cameron, or Nick Clegg. Feeling more personally connected to the party leaders is helping to break down some of the barriers that have long-existed which make people feel very separate from their politicians.

Increased transparency of information has become something that people are demanding and the web is the perfect forum to store and share what the people to demand to see. The internet presents us with an enormous wealth of information about the election and its candidates, with new widgets available for example the BBC widget that allows you to compare party policies side by side. Power has seen a shift from the party and politician’s control and that of journalist and newspapers over to the public and how well they can interact with their people via social networking sites. Now that the potential for engagement is enormous those politicians who ignore it or are less active than others do so at their own peril.


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. 



Right, well according to news issued today and a new Twitter index – tweetlevel – launched today, if this was used to measure who would win at the next election, Labour would win by a landslide (see release below, which also claims the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, is more popular than the PM himself, although to be honest this is not a big surprise). Anyway, politics aside, let’s be honest – we all know Twitter is one great big popularity contest and as much as you’d admit to otherwise, you desperately want to be more popular than your peers, colleagues and friends. Well, now is the time to check  go to TweetLevel and put your names in and see who you’re more popular, more influential, and more engaged with. Go on, you know you want to. Are you more influential than some of the names up for the title at the recent World’s Leading Awards? Or, is a tweeting dog more influential than you?

Labour would win a landslide victory at the next election based on their influence in the Twittersphere

But Sarah Brown more Trusted than Gordon

Global PR Agency Edelman unveils ‘TweetLevel’ to measure your importance on Twitter



Labour MPs would win a landslide victory at the next election if their influence in the Twittersphere is anything to go by, according to Edelman’s TweetLevel index launched today.

Labour MPs make up 58.2% of the most influential MPs using social media tool Twitter, compared to 19.7% of Lib Dems and 15.3% of Tories.

Based on the UK Polling Report’s swing calculator which benchmarks opinion poll data against results at the last General Election, the tweet numbers would give Labour a majority of 450 – a veritable Tweetatorship.  Labour would hold 550 seats, the Liberal Democrats 63 seats and the Tories a poor third with 14 seats.

It is not all good news for the Labour party.  Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, is an enthusiastic Twitter user and her glimpses of day to day life at number 10 have clearly struck a chord with the nation in a way that her husband has not.  With a trust ranking of 68%, she is more trusted than the Prime Minister in the Twittersphere by 63.9% points.

TweetLevel has been developed by Edelman, one of the world’s leading PR agencies, using a unique algorithm which takes into account the quality and quantity of someone’s tweets, how engaged and trusted a tweeter is, as well as how popular they are.

By entering their Twitter details into Edelman’s free online tool at, individuals can measure their own importance and rank themselves against a range of factors including influence, engagement, trust and popularity.

TweetLevel allows individuals the opportunity to compare their own importance in the Twittersphere to that of their friends, colleagues and others they choose to ‘follow’.

“This may seem like a bit of fun but there is a really serious side to it.  Too often people think that mere popularity is important but influence and ultimately engagement are what matters.    Barack Obama showed that the use of social media can be an extremely powerful tool in reaching grassroots and motivating local voter groups.   Just signing up isn’t enough – the power of Twitter lies in genuine engagement” said Robert Phillips, UK CEO of Edelman.

Jonny Bentwood, Edelman’s Head of Strategic Analysis, created the algorithm at the heart of the TweetLevel.

“We used over 30 metrics to create the algorithm behind the index.  Unlike most rankings that look merely at the number of followers someone has, TweetLevel gives you a really clear picture of who is important within this increasingly influential forum.”

There are four result metrics:

  • Influence – what you say is interesting and many people listen to it.  This is the primary ranking metric.
  • Popularity – how many people follow you.
  • Engagement – how actively you participate within your community
  • Trust – do people believe what you say.

Each score is rated out of 100 – in other words, the higher your score, the more important you are.

Among the most influential tweeters are show biz blogger Perez Hilton, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher and Social media blog Mashable.

The above rankings and scores were taken on Tuesday 10 November 2009.  TweetLevel is a dynamic tool and the statistics will vary based on individuals’ levels of activity on Twitter.