What do Barack Obama (USA), David Cameron (UK), Francois Hollande (FRA), Stephen Harper (CAN) and Angela Merkel (GER) all have in common? That’s right, you’ve got it; they’re all on Twitter – and with a combined total of 16,645,000 followers (grantedObama contributes 16 million of those) to boot.
Another thing all these world leaders have in common is that they were all elected to serve and lead their respective nations; 24 hours a day,7 days a week.
This raises the question; is it possible for them to strike an effective work/Twitter balance or should they steer well clear of the social network and leave it to celebrities and the general public instead?
Below I’ve run through some of the most prominent arguments for and against.
It helps to them to connect with people and vice versa
Politicians are often criticised for being out of touch with the general public; so I’m sure political PR teams couldn’t believe their luck when social media – namelyTwitter – took off. It is the perfect way to connect with the electorate; albeit at a safe distance.
If a politician is unveiling a flagship scheme or pushing for a popular piece of legislation, tweeting about it can help bring them, and the cause, publicity. Additionally, if there is an urgent situation – blow by blow tweeting from someone actually involved in the decision making provide the public with important information almost instantly (obviously if it’s confidential then don’t expect regular tweet updates).
A recent example of this improved connection between the elected, and the electorate, is the Twitter session hosted by the Mayor of London.Boris Johnson’s followers on Twitter were invited to tweet questions about London to #askboris where he (or his team) would answer them directly on Twitter. This enabled him to really connect with the people he was elected to serve on a personal level by listening to their individual concerns.
Shows a human side to a disliked profession
The reputation of politicians is probably at its lowest ebb for a very long time; a succession of scandals and crises has meant the public have lost confidence in their representatives.The situation is not improved by many people’s view that the political class is detached from the problems that millions of us face every day.
Twitter provides a wonderful platform for politicians to combat this negative image; the occasional tweet about what they’re doing on their weekend etc can go a long way to improving the public’s perceptionof them.
As long as they follow these rules social networks should only work in their favour, because all politicians should be aware that social networks are a double edged sword and can quite easily come back to haunt public figures.
They should be spending their time working
Politicians are elected to serve not to tweet. That’s the battle cry of those opposed to politicians spending their time on social media.
You can see their point, it isn’t important for the public to know if Obama really enjoyed the last episode of Homeland or if David Cameron cried after Aston Villa lost (exaggerated examples but the principle remains). Time spent tweeting their followers with these facts about their lives or shameless self-promotion could have been spent doing more important things like serving the people.
It may sound like a bitter tirade against politicians doing their best to repair their public image, but the argument still stands that exemplary public service is the best way to win popularity contests.
It cheapens an historic profession
Being a public figure is an important role; it puts individuals in the position of being role models in both their working and personal lives to millions of people. It is accepted as part and parcel of celebrity culture that actors, pop stars and sports people will all do things specifically to gain publicity. They will partake in publicity stunts just to promote their latest work or their own personal profile as well as becoming embroiled in scandals etc.
However, this behaviour should not be expected, never mind accepted, coming from politicians who are not celebrities but are still role models. Our elected representatives should not be trying to gain cheap and quick personality by pandering to the latest craze on a social network site. Instead they should be doing their best to restore the respectability to a crucial, yet currently unpopular,role in society.
It seems particularly rude and disrespectful behaviour for politicians to be tweeting from their respective political chambers like the US Senate and House of Commons. Especially when they should be listening on behalf of their electorate to what is going on so that they are able to make a well informed decision.
Well therewe have it;that was a brief look at both sides of the “should public figures be on Twitter?” argument. Where do you stand? Post your comments below and let me know what side of the fence you’re on!
Author Bio:- Josh Hansen works for Electric Dialogue and writes for Get Me TV Jobs.