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Social Media & Politics

By Brendan Finucane, Ecanvasser CEO

It is fair to say that Twitter is the ‘home’ social media for politics. Every politician has an account and it is the de-facto public sphere for political commentary. With this in mind, it is amazing to see how naive politicians are in their use of the medium and what the cumulative effect of this is on the profession as a whole.

The growth of social media as a tool for instant engagement between public representatives and their constituents should be seen as a good thing for modern democracies. With every comment, every tweet, and every photo liked though the general public is watching and they are deciding on your credibility based on what they see.

There is much commentary about the decline in the authority of core pillars of society and none more so than the political establishment. Though there are many reasons why this might be the case it is clear that the way politicians and their staff conduct themselves on social media does have a part to play in this decline. I am in no way suggesting that negative social media activity is the sole reason for this decline but I would urge candidates and incumbent politicians to get advice on how best to use technology to improve their voter communication. There are numerous resources for anyone in politics, first of which would be media training that is provided by most party structures. A simple online search will also yield a host of best practice for social media usage and outline the legal implications of fast fingers on the keyboard. In my opinion, Ecanvasser’s Campaign Blueprint is an excellent place to start as the content is free and tailored specifically to politics.

Looking then at two very common scenarios for the political tweeter.

Scenario A:

Someone is watching your “update for more funding in the local area” post, your recent canvassing photo, you're ‘like’ of the community association status for volunteers, they have decided you are an upstanding member of the community and local representative.

Scenario B:

Someone is watching you tweet derogatory opinions about a political opponent, your “lol” comment on a meme of a political opponent’s policy, your like of a status denouncing a political opinion, they have decided you are unprofessional and have no respect for you and the office you hold.

As CEO of Ecanvasser, obviously, I take an active interest in politics and how new technology is improving political communication and, unfortunately, scenario B is an all too common occurrence. Politicians should be mindful of what they are posting regarding certain topics. Take 30 seconds and ask yourself the question - would you put this tweet or comment in a press release? If not, then delete that tweet.

With Twitter, 140 characters doesn’t seem like enough letters to actually destroy careers but it is and many people in the spotlight live to regret old tweets. Many people in political circles believe by doing a quick clear out of their old tweets that any proof of a derogatory remark or controversial opinion will be scrubbed clean. Unfortunately, you can’t scrub the internet clean.

We’ve come a long way since the days of dismissing something as a social media blunder. It’s almost too easy to use Donald Trump to explain my point here but I will nonetheless.

There is a fine line between political ‘jousting’ with opponents on Twitter and something that descends into mere squabbling. If politicians are not professional in the way they present themselves online then how can voters respect them?

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