News Column

#Nothingtosay? Then Don't Say Anything @Twitter

August 27, 2013

Some high profile politicians have come a right cropper when using social media sites like Twitter.

Prime Minister David Cameron infamously told radio listeners in 2009: "The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it - too many twits might make a tw*t."

Mr Cameron later joined the estimated 500m on Twitter only to unwittingly give a prime ministerial plug to a spoof account, @IDS_MP, mocking his government.

He'd intended to tweet his support for the welfare reforms of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who didn't have an account.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said later it was: '#onetotakeonthechin'.

Labour leader Ed Miliband succumbed to the nightmare of the unintended 'literal' in a tribute to the late Bob Holness with 'A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbuster'.

But for those MPs who have messed up even the delete button is no refuge as the Politwoops site faithfully records all deleted messages So it is heartening to see that the Welsh Local Government Association has issued its own guide to social media for councillors to encourage more engagement with constituents via the modern electronic media.

Some authorities are still reluctant to allow the public to tweet from their meetings, let alone film them.

But the WLGA says: "A revolution is taking place in how we communicate," our councillors are told.

"We live in an open, accessible and dynamic communications world. The use of social media will help ensure your voice is heard."

Thankfully, it suggests councillors should avoid the bland repetition of press release, rehashed central party handouts and 'what I've done today' diary items.

"Even though it's tempting to let your followers know how busy you are they will soon become bored with constant updates on your day without some relevant or interesting information.

"Many councillors think that some of their personal comments about food, places they've visited, football matches or TV helps break down perceptions of councillors and proves that they are normal like everyone else!" it advises.

"Bear in mind that constituents may find party political point scoring tedious and prefer to hear information about what you are achieving.

"If you don't have anything tosay...don't say anything."

But there are pitfalls to avoid, theguide explains.

"Keep your communications clear,positive, polite and professional. Plain language helps. Avoid being ironic or sarcastic, it can be misinterpreted."

It warns against tweeting when 'tired' - and presumably 'over emotional' - when you might say things you later regret.

There is a fine balance to be struck and for those who successfully negotiate the social media landscape, it opens up a big world.

But for those MPs who have messed up even the delete button is no refuge as the Politwoops site faithfully records all deleted messages. #letsbecarefuloutthere.


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Source: Copyright Daily Post (Liverpool, England) 2013.