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9 Ways for Tweeting MPs to Engage With Their Followers

9 Ways for Tweeting MPs to Engage With Their Followers

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Published by Grant Shapps
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP writes about different ways that MPs and other politicians can interact using Twitter.
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP writes about different ways that MPs and other politicians can interact using Twitter.

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Published by: Grant Shapps on May 28, 2012
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05/28/2012

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Political Tweeting
9 ways for Tweeting MPs to engage with their Followers
 This weekend marked my 50,000
th
Twitter follower. So to honour them all, Ipresent my random thoughts about how MPs (and other politicians for that matter)can better engage with their voters, critics and followers alike on Twitter.I should immediately point out that I don’t get this right all the time. And I’mdefinitely not suggesting that Twitter can or should be a constant 24/7conversation with your Followers. That just wouldn’t be practical. But I do thinkthere are specific approaches you can use to engage your Followers in a mutuallybeneficial way. So, here are 9 of them…1.
Hold your own “Twitterthon”
Every now and then I’ll make a series of posts in quick succession about aspecific issue or policy area. I’ll intersperse these by responding to peoplewho are commenting on my posts as I go along. In the process you canquickly find that you’ve engaged an audience of several thousand postersvery quickly. The whole thing takes 10 to 15 minutes.It’s what I call an impromptu Twitterthon and my advice is to keep thempretty much ad hoc. If you take the trouble to advertise the ‘event’ inadvance then you’re sure to attract organised resistance or “Twitter trolls”.2.
Offer exclusive content released only on Twitter
One great thing about Twitter is that you can use it to release informationthat’s not available elsewhere. An inside scoop or late breakingdevelopment in your constituency or policy area. And for some reason journalists seem to love reporting that such and such used their Twitter feedto let followers know XYZ piece of news.Depending on the size of your current following, you may of course need to‘tip off’ an interested journalist to actually notice your Tweet in the firstplace.3.
Build expectation and excitement
I’ve also found that Twitter can be a great way of creating a buzz around aparticular activity. This past weekend I knew that I’d be announcing the12winningPortas Pilot High Street bids. Given that 371 Towns had applied Iknew that folks would be anxiously awaiting news. And whilst I knew thatthe traditional media would cover the results, none of them were likely toflag up precisely when to expect them. I was able to turn to Twitter andusing just one or two Tweets ensure that – via reTweets – everyone whomight want to know could find out about the anticipated announcements. Itcreated a mini online buzz.4.
Aim for reTweets
reTweets, as mentioned above, are in fact an excellent measure of youronline ‘reach’. When you write something truly interesting, others will
 
Political Tweeting
reTweet it for you. This means that anyone watching their timeline will seewhat you’ve written. Plus of course their followers might decide to followyou to be closer to the source of the information.If you are logged into Twitter, going tohttps://Twitter.com/reTweeted_of_minewill show you Interactions includingreTweets. However many phone apps, including the outstanding TweetCastermakes seeing reTweets, conversations and much more – easyto follow.5.
Tweet from your mobile most of the time
A matter of personal preference perhaps, but it’s worth noting that many of the really good Tweeting apps – like TweetCaster– are designed for mobileplatforms. There’s definitely a correlation between someone’s propensity to Tweet and use of a mobile platform to do so. Apart from anything else, Tweeting can usefully be carried out when you have a spare momenttravelling from A to B. So mobile devices are not only capable of better Twitter apps, but tend to focus your mind on Tweeting more actively andthat of course increases the likelihood of interaction with your followers too.6.
Use Bookmarks when Tweeting
If you’re about to do go on, say, the BBC News Channel, then you’llobviously want to include their @name or #hashtag - in this case that’s@BBCNews or #BBCNews. But when you think about this from the Twitteruser perspective this isn’t all that helpful. A Tweet which actually providesthe live link is far more likely to create engagement too.If you’re Tweeting from your phone then keep a list of Bookmarks for all thelive programmes and then link to this at the end of your Tweet. Write it uplike this…
 About to debate XYZ on @BBCNews Channel. Watch it live here >http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10318089 
Using this kind of link means that you’ll drive viewers to your performance,get instant feedback, and have the chance to further interact with your Twitter followers.In addition you’ll see that there’s nothing particularly memorable about thatBBC Live News feed web address above, which is why you want to have allof these Bookmarked on your mobile in advance to aid easy Tweeting.7.
Keep it local
Never forget where you’re from and who you represent. It’s all too easy toget carried away in the Westminster Village Tweeting about the
2
nd
Readingof the Widget Protection Bill
but don’t forget, all politics is local. ActuallyI’ve found that my followers don’t object one bit to my posting frequent
 
Political Tweeting
constituency updates. A hunch reinforced by at least one follower in thisNew Statesmanarticle.
@AljwhiteI find myself getting increasingly excited as I wait for hisnext Tweet. Exactly how frivolous will it be? And then it comes, andhis 40,000 followers learn he's "On way to Partnership Accreditationfor Landlords launch at University of Hertfordshire," and you think:brilliant. Who cares about that? Obviously I do, because I'm slightly obsessed, but what about everyone else? I suppose it's like following Joey Barton or Jedward: never mind if you find his updates boring; heclearly doesn't. You end up being buoyed along by the enthusiasm.
8.
Surprise them by being human!
Let’s be blunt. Lot of folk don’t think politicians live on the same planet. They think we think differently, eat different food, breath different air… andthat you certainly wouldn’t be seen dead actually Tweeting in person.Right?Well, I think it’s your job to prove them wrong! Since you can probably onlybust one myth at a time I suggest you start by proving youcarry out all yourown Tweets. But don’t stop there – take it one stage further by replying tosome Tweet questions or even the occasional accusation.When you do screw up on Twitter – easily done with auto-correction on asmall keyboard – then own up to it. In fact you can even use your‘misspeaks’ and ‘misspells’ to your advantage by demonstrating that… well,you’re only human.9.
When to Reply, Reply WITH Comment or occasionally DirectMessage instead
 Twitter can be a confusing place. Who the author of a comment was andwho is
reTweeting
it is an obvious place for mix ups. When you do hit
Reply 
it’s quite likely that your followers haven’t read the full thread and whatyou’re saying is often therefore out of context. For this reason I usually prefer to
Reply WITH Comment.
This means thatthe original post is repeated (much like a
reTweet 
), but that you can thenadd your own comment on to the end. This keeps the conversation incontext and makes it much easier for others to follow the thread. Of coursethe 140 character limit is even more challenging, but it’s amazing what youcan squeeze in.I rarely use the
Direct Message
feature because it’s typically full of spamposts. There was however one occasion when it definitely would have beena better bet for my wife.

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