Social media a 'double-edged sword' for politicians

Aug 29, 2013

Social media are a double-edged sword for campaigning politicians, warns one of Australia's top media researchers.

In fact, social media are more likely to hinder than help a campaign when write a bad tweet or Facebook post, said Associate Professor Axel Bruns of QUT's ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI).

Professor Bruns' research team is tracking the performance of current federal MPs, election candidates and their parties on Twitter.

The team found the social is allowing politicians to circumvent to publish their messages to an audience that has explicitly chosen to 'follow' or 'friend' them.

But there's a risk.

"Using social media is more likely to put politicians at a disadvantage if they make bad mistakes, which can quickly turn into major issues, especially once they're picked up by mainstream media," Professor Bruns said.

"So the penalties for a badly conceived tweet or post may be greater than the benefits of a good one."

Leading in social media metrics does not always translate into more support for a politician, Professor Bruns said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd currently has around 1.38 million Twitter followers compared to Opposition leader Tony Abbott's 177,000.

Since the start of July, Rudd has been winning the @mention war, with almost 200,000 compared to Abbott's 126,000.

"Despite Rudd's lead in social media, he's trailing in the polls," Professor Bruns said.

"So he may be talked about more often than Abbott is on Twitter, but the that mention him may have expressed disapproval as much as support for him.

"And the tide is turning: during week two of the campaign, Abbott received 5,000 more @mentions than Rudd.

"As predict a Coalition government and after Abbott's controversial statements about same-sex marriage, Twitter scrutiny of the Opposition leader may be on the increase."

Professor Bruns said the Coalition is less active on Twitter than Rudd and Labor because the Coalition is leading in the polls.

"Unless Labor starts to gain points in the polls, the Coalition is more interested in avoiding mistakes than 'making new friends' on ," he said.

"As Labor is behind, they do not have this luxury. The party needs to use any type of media to reach as many people as they can, especially those who haven't made up their minds, which can be a significant number.

"In this case, Twitter and Facebook can be very useful in helping Labor spread its views, policies and ideas to the 'undecided' group, so the politicians are doing as much as they can.

"Whether this will be enough to attract more voters, we'll find out after the election."

CCI is publishing its election analysis at mappingonlinepublics.net throughout the campaign.

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australian parties snub tobacco money

Aug 22, 2013

Australia's ruling Labor party pledged a ban on tobacco company donations if returned to office Thursday and the conservatives followed suit, ordering an end to campaign funds from cigarette firms.

The Twit-election: It's the conversation, stupid

Aug 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- When it comes to Saturday's federal election in Australia, Twitter users are clear: politicians who spend time in conversation get most out of the platform, and the Greens are exploiting this ...

What is retail politics?

Aug 19, 2013

Shaking hands. Kissing babies. Throwing snags on the barbie, or wandering through a suburban shopping centre. These are the familiar scenes of "retail politics", a campaign style in which candidates sell ...

Election most tweeted event in US political history

Nov 07, 2012

Election day in the United States became the most tweeted about event in US political history Tuesday with enthusiastic netizens firing off 20 million poll-related tweets, the social network said.

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

16 hours ago

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

16 hours ago

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

17 hours ago

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

Dec 17, 2014

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.