Yesterday, David Cameron received a direct appeal from Conservative Uber-Blogger Tim Montgomerie to take up Twitter. You can watch the question and response here. Yet more pressure on the Tories to play ‘catch-up’ with this medium came with this report referenced in yesterday’s FT.
Whilst I have nothing but respect for Montgomerie and his ability to use the internet to enthuse & engage Conservative activists I think he’s dead wrong on the value of Twitter. Cameron is right not to waste his finite time on this fad. Cards on the table: I’m a relative newbie to Twitter, I resisted the hype for a year or two but when I started blogging I joined hoping to drive some traffic to this blog. I suppose from that point of view it has been successful. I haven’t sussed it out all the etiquette yet, but there are a couple of things I have learned – all of which for me suggest DC should stay away:
- The oft-published league tables for ‘number-of-followers’ are nonsense – any quick Google search will show you how to quickly ‘buy’ followers, and there is a juvenile (yet compelling) culture of ‘I’ll follow you if you follow me’. Look at the million plus followers C grade Radio 5 DJ Richard Bacon has signed up. If you believe the headline then one in sixty people in the UK is clinging to his every 140 character utterance. If you actually look at his account you have to scroll through literally thousands of Far Eastern sounding names before you find a single person who appears to be a potential 5-live listener. Either he has a huge cult following in China and the Philippines or his PR agency have recruited a decent ‘follower farmer’. It can only be a matter of time before the Media suss this out and ‘number-of-followers’ stops being a measure of digital credibility and gravitas – and actually becomes the reverse. You also need to drop the assumption that because someone ‘follows you’ they actually bother to read your tweets. A quick look at a sample of twitter accounts shows many follow hundreds or even thousands of people. Once people are following that kind of volume, you realise your most profound tweets are lost to many in the sheer noise of the place.
The magic is having quality followers not the quantity of them.
- For Cameron a ‘quality’ follower would be a swing voter who is only following a handful of other people. The reality is that most people on Twitter are either IT Geeks, Media/Marketing Types or Political Animals – the vast majority of this crowd are dead set in who they will vote for. Those who aren’t political are unlikely to be inclined to follow Cameron. He would either be preaching to the converted or the lynch mob.
- Staying off also avoids the potential banana skin of the ill-advised tweets after a shandy or two. I actually follow our local Labour MP in the hope she drops a clanger.
It is therefore simply not a good use of the man’s time and a distraction from methods of campaigning that could engage the people he isn’t currently reaching. Don’t get me wrong Twitter is a neat communication technology and it has its place – but it aint the game changer its proponents think it is and DC is right in sidestepping it.
All that dissing Twitter said, if anyone wishes to follow me I’m @guythemac – I tweet rarely, and only use it to draw attention to new material written on here – I’m sure most of my few tweets are drowned out in the ether – but that’s OK – I have some time to waste – David Cameron does not.