Twitter, media and politics

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Twitter is a relatively recent communications tool and its affect on mass media and politics is still evolving in rapid and sometimes unpredictable ways.

There are already very lengthy and serious research papers being written on the subject and I don’t claim any particular research experience or expertise. However I have enjoyed watching the evolution of this new communications conduit and I’ve made a few mistakes myself along the way. Some funnier than others!

For the purposes of this short article my views and learnings (briefly) are:

1. Journos are learning how important Twitter is, but a few dinosaurs remain. The younger and hipper ones are clearly much better at it. The smart ones understand how to use lists and hashtags to monitor developments and also answer legitimate questions. They also aren’t afraid to block anonymous trolls.

2. Twitter now drives breaking news in mainstream media. The good journos get this. Many mainstream media stories are now peppered with pictures, videos and eyewitness accounts ripped straight from Twitter, often without any investigative or precautionary fact-checking.

3. Twitter is a good comms tool for insiders, sadly no soft or swinging voter’s minds will ever be changed on twitter,

4. The block key is great for anonymous trolls. Don’t feed the anonymous trolls.

The story below is an interesting yarn from the US via Campaigns and Elections magazine (a great resource for campaigners and journalists alike). I recommend subscribing to them for regular updates as well as following them on Facebook and Twitter.

campaigns and elections

Read the full article online here: http://www.campaignsandelections.com/magazine/us-edition/446907/is-twitter-ruining-young-press-operatives.thtml

It’s a great warning for young, enthusiastic (and sometimes inexperienced) digital campaigners (of which there are many in modern campaigning).

Key learnings from the article above include:

1. Here’s just one example: a snarky tweet from our opponent’s communications director ended up being retweeted a dozen times (I assume entirely by his friends and family), and this suddenly constituted a communications crisis for our campaign. It wasn’t. Not even close.

2. As all encompassing as Twitter seems in the Beltway Bubble, many voters, especially older voters who are your most reliable voting demographic, don’t use it. Some have no idea what Twitter is. And those who do are probably tweeting about the score of the latest baseball game, not the negative attack ad on TV.

3. Campaign communication plans need to be balanced with both traditional and new media, which means we need operatives who are balanced, and most importantly, know how to filter out the noise. Young operatives have come up in a world where everyone is on Twitter and everyone uses their Facebook accounts. In their world, much of public life is transacted online. The reality of life for most voters is far different. They’re reading news stories, in many cases online, but still a good portion in print. They’re also listening to talk radio and watching live broadcast television. A good hit in any of these mediums is far more likely to move voters than a tweet.

4. If Twitter is your only news source, which too often it is for many political reporters, some random malfeasance would appear to have seismic repercussions when survey research would show 80 percent of voters are unaware of the issue at all.

5. Now, this isn’t to say that social media sites like Twitter are useless to campaigns. They can be great ways to communicate with supporters, opinion makers, and drive action, but social media alone, or even primarily, does not move popular opinion or shape the discussion the way a print story in the major local daily does.

That said, Twitter does drive many mainstream stories, simply because of its speed and accessibility. Take for examples our (current) Federal Treasurer’s recent statements about poor people not owning cars or driving far. The explosion of memes and jokes on twitter (in which mainstream journalists shared and participated in the online furor) resulted in this joke even being carried the next day in conservative newspapers like the Herald Sun. It’s a good example of a story spreading initially through twitter and then the mainstream media. The MPs and candidates who were paying attention were able to participate in the conversation and in some cases help spread the wildfire which the conservatives are still trying to extinguish two days later.

There were some more hilarious tweets and memes the following day and then a further wave of very funny cartoons in the mainstream media after that (and online) .

here is a small sample found via google and twitter:

joe car shot

poor dont drive

shakespeare hockey

joe hockey clouds

joe and his budget blues

hockey

muir on hockey

walk for the dole

Anyway, don’t just take my word for it. Go to twitter and type “#auspol Hockey” into the search field …and enjoy the visual spectacle yourself.

If all this talk about Joe Hockey is a bit confusing (maybe you’re reading this via Pandora in a few years time) … this article by Lenore Taylor might help to make some sense out of it: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/14/dumb-ways-to-sell-a-budget-a-singalong-guide-for-joe-hockey?CMP=twt_gu

While I’m typing this up poor old Joe Hockey is getting an absolute shellacking on ABC PM radio in Australia. I’m listening to a Vox Pop where every person is describing him as arrogant and out of touch. Will try and find a transcript later and add it to this post.

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