(Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann showing true character)
It’s important for our politicians (and similarly for businesses) to use Twitter. And the more random and candid it is, the better. Less of the corporate or communications-driven tweets that are not self-written, and more of the on-the-floor, on-the-road, “what I’m thinking now,” and “what that means to me” stuff.
As I read in a well-written communications and PR article recently, Twitter usage can impart a measure of sincerity, honesty and transparency, and allows us to better measure the character of the person or business in question. Sure, many corporate PR types would cringe at the idea of their client tweeting at random, but if the dog is tame, so to speak, and the leash can be removed and their personality revealed (and the person is indeed of mature substance) then great results can be achieved. It is the transparency that is inherently the most interesting to voters and of the greatest potential value to the politician. We get to see in real time what really is going on in their heads, their level of social and cerebral aptitude and the substance of their character, and they get to benefit from the swarming interest and loyalty of the fan base.
But it’s not always perfect. Some tweets or posts that unequivocally highlight inappropriateness are, though still of value to the voter (especially to note the level of idiocy and of parallel note, their constraint), a potential disaster for the politician. For example, as I brought up in a post a few months ago, we got to see the true colors of Alberta MLA Doug Elniski when he tweeted about needing help while amongst lesbians, and blogged about true “equality” and how young girls ought to attract men. (FYI – since my post I’ve been blocked from following his Twitter account.)
On the other hand, a capable person such as Alberta MLA and Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann keeps his own website, tweets for himself and his messages are mostly interesting, engaging and provide us with an idea of who he is. This connection is invaluable both to him and us. Voters strive to really know their politicians, and when they can’t make that connection, which happens 98% of the time these days, they become apathetic; a reality all too well known. But when they can, voters become loyal and word of mouth spreads.
It’s been said that those who follow celebrities or people of significance feel almost as if they know them. As though the term friend is less of a Twitter and Facebook-inspired label and more of a reality. Of course, when celebrities have the wit and the integrity to tweet responsibly for themselves, they are provided a feeling of connection with their fans in a controlled and thus enjoyable environment. What could be better than that? But when a politician is an idiot and shows it on Twitter, we are still better for it. That said, we are quick to see their controllers (Disney in the case of Miley Cyrus, and the Alberta Conservative Party in the case of Doug Elniski) cut off all connection to the real world, thus casting them back into the noxious syrup of controlled PR, media and spin.
Political types are known for their door knocking strategies during campaign time, where they meet constituents and discuss the issues of the day. Twitter and other social media, when employed candidly, accomplish this task in exponential fashion. Imagine door knocking to 10,000 people at once. Sure they’re not all constituents, but many would be, and the practice goes a long way towards displaying the candour and sometimes brutal truth of those who profess to represent us in government. Parties should spend less time protecting their members from the public, and instead teach them how to behave in public. Or, perhaps in the case of Doug Elniski, find alternative representation.