News that Labour has hired what some are calling a ‘Twitter tsar’ – in the shape of Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East – begs the question as to what qualifications make one suitable for such a post.
With just 2,424 followers on Twitter despite 4,555 tweets, one wonders how much she really knows about micro-blogging.
To put McCarthy’s following in context, it’s worth noting that magician Paul Daniels has built up a following of 22,421 through almost exactly the same number of Tweets as McCarthy: 4,614. That’s magic!
Paul Daniels’ profile picture on Flickr.*
Not fair, you cry: Daniels is a celebrity while MPs rarely are (though a fake LordMandelson Twitter profile quickly racked up 2,793 followers despite only 23 Tweets to its ‘name’.)
You have a point. But fair or unfair, McCarthy has only added 0.53 followers for each of her tweets. Paul Daniels’ ratio is 4.6 followers per tweet. So who would you back to raise MP’s influence on Twitter?
To be fair, The Independent newspaper named McCarthy the most influential MP on Twitter, based on a combination of followers, mentions and outgoing links to stories. So that explains it.
It’s clear why Labour would want to hire a ‘Twitter tsar’. I’ve written in the past about the huge positive impact that social networking had on Barack Obama’s election campaign. Labour must replicate that success the best they can.
Twitter and other social networking sites are thought to be a conduit to an audience that might pay little or no attention to more traditional media. Their potential to encourage dialogue, and the informal nature of what one publishes on such sites, gives them a quality that is hard to copy in other formats.
Little wonder then that Tory MP Alan Duncan, who was forced to apologise “unreservedly” after he was secretly filmed complaining about MPs’ pay and expenses in early August, set up a Twitter profile and uttered his first Tweet last week. If rebuilding your reputation is required, ‘look no further than Twitter’ seems to be the mantra.
After a single Tweet, Duncan has 30 followers at the time of writing. That gives him an outstanding ratio of 30 followers per tweet. So what was his first Tweet? ‘Sorry’? ‘Mea culpa’? Of course not. “My first tweet ever,” he wrote, “So be gentle. Weather here fabulous”.
To follow Paul Daniels: Twitter.com/ThePaulDaniels*
Kerry McCarthy: Twitter.com/KerryMP
Alan Duncan: Twitter.com/AlanDuncanMP*
* While I believe these are the genuine Twitter profiles of Paul Daniels and Alan Duncan, it’s not always easy to tell, because it’s easy to set up a fake. But that’s another story.