This year more than any other i have begun to notice how many politicos, politicians and political parties are using new social media technologies.
I blame Stephen Fry for this. Who would really have heard of twitter if it were not for the unofficial king/president/patron of twitter, Mr Fry himself? Indeed, many celebs are on the thing, helping to create its own viral hype without spending a penny of expensive adverts. Web 2.0+ is here.
Apparently according to Twittercounter the person in the number one spot of followers is Ashton Kutcher with around 1.7 million followers. Maybe all those gossip magazines should be worried. Instead of waiting a week to see what hot juicy bits of infantile gossip there is with shock horror angle, people can actually follow the celeb in question and get it direct instead. This should appeal to many people as it is more immediate and feels more personal.
So are our great and the good using social media to socialise or propagandise?
A few tweeters have had their hackles raised about this as they found that all that happened was politicians were using their twitter accounts to publicise press releases.
I can understand the exasperation, but on reflection why not? Politicians, though i half suspect a number of them do not actually tweet themselves, are beginning to put up not only press release material, but what they are doing - indeed the actual function of twitter.
Having a twitter account i have also seem swathes of abuse/spam through people asking for retweets [put up better posts!] to people trawling their large number of followers and doing a #followfriday* with them all.
Also, as someone who likes follow all that really sad political rubbish is it not a good thing that we are informed toot sweet about new online publications??? They are not all going to be new headlines but the flow of information is a politico anorak's lifeblood.
Plus twitter is a new phenomenon for us all - we are all getting to grips with its own etiquette and language codes. Not too long ago I only really sussed the #hashtag thing, though still not totally 100% on this.
The real issue in this and i include not just twitter but blogs, websites, facebook, myspace, flickr, tumblr etc is that they are social media. A new way to interact, discuss and receive feedback.
Politicos and political activists are probably more 'with it' on social media and its potential to connect with the audiences they want to engage with. Potential problems, though, are issues surrounding its geekiness, what target publics are actually accessing social media as a communication tool and it could just all end up with most just dipping their toes into social media then ignoring it and leaving it to a hardcore bunch who, while getting the issue of social media, because there are so few in the end just talk in circles.
Social media is a tool and we do have to keep up with it but i think in the end what really needs to happen is that each method of communication is assessed is it nice? yes. Is it cutting edge? yes. Is it on the rise in popularity? yes. Does it reach our target publics? Ahhhh, maybe.
Many organisations selling things see it as a great marketing tool. It could indeed be a real political marketing and discussion tool, and i think it is moving that way. It just really needs properly assessed. Just because Barak Obama used it does not mean we can use all his methods in our own context.
Many of our politicians in this Euro election for 2009 and all scrabbling to be the most relevant, the most up to date, the most switched on in terms of social media and all of its wonderful shiny gadgets.
Me? I would just like to see them face to face on my door step!
* #followfriday seems to be a twitter cultural phenomenon where followers are essentially given a bit of promotion to reward them for being loyal followers. I have had some experience of looking at a full page of tweets that had nothing but said #followfriday - mostly useless to me. I have however given in to doing this myself, but restricting myself to one #followfriday with no more than five followers included. I think this is more effective and will produce more interest than spamming everyone with hundreds of names.
I have to put this in, a really nice 'social media in plain English' vid. Enjoy.