Nearly half (47 per cent) of Twitter users in the UK will reconsider their political views based on the content politicians share, according to the social network's study into the role it will play in the run up to the UK's general election in May
The results led Adam Sharp, global head of news and politics at Twitter, to advise politicians to act like humans and talk about more than just policy with their followers.
Speaking at the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit today (19 March), Sharp said 78 per cent of MPs are currently on the platform heading into the election.
The study of 3000 users found that younger voters (aged 18-34) are more undecided that any other agency group, with a fifth (20 per cent) yet to make a choice for the 2015 general election. These users are most likely to turn to Twitter for insight on the election, with 45 per cent using it to find out “meaningful and unbiased” information on a party.
Sharp said as a direct result, more than a third have changed their vote or party affiliation because of content on they find on Twitter while 47 per cent reconsidered views.
“The best way to gain a vote today is no different to what it was 100 years ago. It’s about looking someone in the eyes and shaking hands. But it’s hard to do that at scale and [politicians] have developed these broadcast models of campaigning and it’s increasingly missing out on that one-on-one conversation,” he said.
He pointed to Senator Claire McCaskill in the US as a politician who has got it right.
I'm tired of looking and feeling fat. Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined.Off to the gym.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) May 12, 2011
“You could hear the gasps across DC wondering how a US senator could tweet that, but it’s the beginning of a conversation. When she tweeted [that], 15 constituents tweeted back saying I’ll go to the gym if you go,” he said.
Sharp revealed that when McCaskill began tweeting about her personal life, engagement with political tweets went up.
“She was a human being,” he said. “This is an opportunity for MPs in the UK.”
He said at the moment only one in six tweets from politicians in the UK use ‘@ replies’ to constituents versus broadcasting a message, highlighting the missed opportunity.
Speaking on how much help politicians should get to manage Twitter feeds, Sharp said McCaskill doesn't allow staff access to her feed because she sees it as a chance to break out of that "Washington bubble" and connect to constituents.
This is something David Cameron might want to consider as he ramps up his efforts to stay in Number 10. During an interview with Buzzfeed this week, the prime minister admitted that although he has a Twitter account he doesn’t actually type out his tweets himself.
“I tweet,” he said, and he acted out typing on a phone. “But I don’t actually, er…”