Real Social Media Lessons for MP’s – Just Don’t Do It


Let me explain why it really is a bad idea to have Twitter if you are an MP.  The media love Twitter and have embraced it fully in reporting of politics and here is why. They are the prime beneficiaries of MP’s tweeting.

Despite consistently advising MP’s not to get on Twitter they are ignoring such sage counsel and are continuing to do so.  So once again I will  share my experience in social media over the years and analyse  how and why MP’s should not use Twitter unless it enhances their reputation among media and with it a very small section of the voting public who follow Twitter.  Twitter use is making MP’s look even more clueless about the problems and needs of their actual target voters than most already are and in Asenati Lole-Taylor’s case, that was what I previously thought an impossible achievement.

I do not spend much time on Twitter and only have links to new posts on the blog.  I will jump on to sledge people who need and deserve it, like David Fisher and formerly Trevor Mallard but it is a distraction to my day I can do without. If for any reason I do go on, it is as a free social media lesson in how people with anything to lose in life such as their job as an MP and perks that go with it, need to be very careful about using it. Regular users of Twitter are just hopelessly addicted to it, bored with their job or life in some way and need to stop.

Then there are political journalists who show their bias and inner circles by endlessly communicating with MP’s they are meant to be reporting neutrally on.  The smarter political journalists though use twitter to bait MP’s into making fools of themselves by obtaining stories written from tips and gossip off it and present that to their editor now as news reporting.  None of these stories are ones enhancing the public perception of an MP. The vast majority of the public do not follow Twitter at all and only see something on it in the paper or online when an MP has made a dick of themselves. 

All of this means MP’s are tweeting mainly to impress media they are witty and smart and open to engaging and not to impress their actual voters.

too dumb

There is a special kind of stupid I cannot ignore in explaining why MP’s should delete their Twitter accounts using the sad story of Peter Dunne who is now an old joke for those in the know as he is fascinated with everything poor reporter Andrea Vance has to tweet.  The fascination got so creepy her colleagues in the Press Gallery did not know whether to break it to Dunne to tell him to stop or let him continue to behave like an old fool as they are having fun watching him humiliate himself in a pathetic attempt to score a lady and her attention who is not at all interested.  This lack of interest is despite the lure of Dunne having a Ministerial warrant, a BMW at his disposal and sometimes holding enough power in his hands over many years to bring down any Government he wished to. So I will do the honours and tell Dunne right now that everyone working in the Gallery is mocking him behind his back and watching every tweet he mentions Vance in and laughing at him not with him.  She’s just not that in to you and the attention Dunne is receiving from media on Twitter is not from new found friends who think he is suddenly cool now because he tweets.  If Dunne wants to have the attention of a younger woman it is as easy as waiting down at Copperfields one lunchtime and chatting to  a regular pie eater and lolly muncher who does typing part-time like all the men with perceived power but no game whatsoever with ladies in Parliament have to settle for when caught batting well out of their league.  Remember Peter Dunne was the grown man who with one simple plank killed off the entire fad.

The media are only allowed all this work time on Twitter using work cellphones and bandwidth paid for by their bosses for one reason – to catch MP’s out doing stupid stuff and reporting those mistakes or SMOG’s as they are termed, as political news and opinion.  Has there ever been a positive career-enhancing news story about an MP off something they have posted on Twitter? Of course not.  This whole piece in the Sunday Star Time is manufactured reporting off engagement by Kate Chapman with MP’s on Twitter.  It gave no social media lessons for MP’s at all. I am, by proving at length and in detail that they should as a Group stop and think of what benefits they are getting from Twitter and look at who does.

Kate Chapman has some advice for Clare Curran that I completely agree with. Curran has become the most boring, negative MP on Twitter mainly because she is very negative about life presently and claims like Chicken Little that the sky will fall in with every policy National announces.  She is stuck in a large hole of personal and work related despair that I can relate to with my past depression.  That is what Curran’s tweets tell us about her also that she is posting them at weird hours so is either up on the bottle late at night through to the crack of dawn or more likely working very late to catch up and is sleep deprived. Her tweeting lately has told us only that she needs a holiday or some time away to reflect if she could ever cope being a Minister as her workload as an Opposition MP is making her depressed and gloomy about life in general.

Worse than those who overshare are those who tweet a lot, but say nothing of any consequence.

Labour MP Clare Curran must be Parliament’s queen of tedium with more than 16,000 tweets, many of which were snipes or arguments with other politicians or media. “On #WorldPressFreedom Day in NZ there r no killings of journalists to mourn, instead insidious strangulation of the craft,” she griped recently.

Curran needs to stop tweeting and all forms of social media and engagement until she has the time and energy to get on top of her Spokesperson for Communications and IT portfolio to at least provide some counter to Steven Joyce who loses no sleep going up against Curran. A portfolio she only knows what a few IT people want her to know and they all want handouts for their tech start ups and pipe dreams under any Labour government.

The most popular and surprising recent addition of an MP to Twitter is Judith Collins who sledges other MP’s on Twitter for target practice and is more regular than Steven Joyce who also has Ministerial level Twitter that resulted in a fight with Labour stooge Selwyn Pellett and news story from that which achieved nothing for him than soaking up his valuable time dealing with a man who is not even an MP, but a one man lobbyist for his own agenda with too much time on his hands. Crusher is using Twitter effectively to build a no nonsense “calling them on their lies” reputation and adding her own character to her tweets to make her points more user friendly.  Which is precisely what she wants out of using Twitter as well as she takes some time to answer tweets and engage in the odd bit of banter with the media. Crusher understands completely what other MP’s have yet to grasp in that every word she uses and post she makes is analysed by media just waiting for their story which with Crusher will be the first time she loses her temper at someone who baits her. Crusher has managed so far to do this public engagement politely and has shown an ability to brush off stupid people and trolls so crucial in social media when you have a lot to lose as she does as a Cabinet Minister.

There are of course a few MPS who’ve hit the nail on the head. Justice Minister Judith Collins joined Twitter recently and was off with a good mix of humour and scorn.

Speaking of Mallard, here is where you can see Chapman and political journalists blur their own entertainment value with the reality of being an MP having to win a wider vote than those small percentage of activist types who follow politicians on Twitter.  Chapman praises Mallard’s work on Twitter.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has sent more than 10,400 tweets on just about every topic and his colleague Chris Hipkins also balances partisan politics with snippets from everyday life.

I ask a simple question –  has there ever been anything positive written in a news story by a journalist about a tweet of Mallard’s likely to gain him or Labour any extra votes? Answer – never. Who would read Mallard’s twitter and want to vote for him as a result of something he has said on Twitter? Only a select few people who like rugby I imagine. So who is Mallard actually tweeting for?  He is tweeting for media attention and as discussed they are only waiting for him to say something stupid so they can make a negative story about it.  They learned this from my asymmetrical war with Mallard during the entire 2008 election campaign.  It eventually will happen.

While Mallard may be entertaining to watch and wind up, his Twitter account is an historical train wreck and when he engaged with me it did nothing for his relationship with caucus colleagues who thought at the time he was insane to distract himself from an already failing campaign he was running and sidelined him further in their future plans as a result.  He has actually listened to someone influential recently and has toned most sledging down and is now trying desperately to resurrect his image so he can one day run for Speaker under a Labour led government.  His genius underpants stealing style strategy to achieve this goal is to post pictures of puppy dogs, babies and  weird cartoons to make him appear friendlier and re-emerge from it all as the new Nice Trev.  In doing so Mallard’s attempt at a conversion is yet more evidence that Twitter really is a complete waste of time and effort for an MP as he chats away to his new repeater friends whom he has handpicked to be those too young to ever know what Angry Trev was actually like when he had any power in the Labour Party machinery.

This attempt to convert new influencers via Twitter will fail while the likes of cynics such as Fran and Audrey still show up for work each day and can set the new generation of “Nice Trev from Twitter” converts straight with horror stories of what he was like as Angry Trev.  Even before his first run at Speaker, Hipkins was taking over Mallard’s role as the enforcer in the Party capable of putting the hits on underperforming Ministers and now the new Nice Trev is trying hard to be as nasty and with it feared and effective in the Party machinery as the neutered baby puppies he posted pictures of for weeks on end on Twitter and through to his Facebook. We are seeing the sad end to the active engagement in the field of one of the angriest and with it nastiest politicians ever to step foot in the House and we can watch it play-by-play now all unfolding through how he has changed his tweeting style.

In conclusion you are perceived as an MP in the new age of social media by who, what, when, where and how you tweet.  Not by your voters but by the media who then watch for and use your mistakes on Twitter to write stories about the times you have tweeted something stupid which the wider public reading their reporting of your moment of shame can then get to view.  The wider public do not get to see anything positive or pleasant that you tweet as an MP, that is not news.

There can be no better argument than this conclusion to my unusually lengthy analysis  plea above as to attempt to stop MP’s from Tweeting by asking who actually they are showing off to by tweeting for? And who benefits from exposing your life like many MP’s have. Does it win you more votes?  As Aaron Gilmore found out, getting to know more about an MP in an uncontrollable and very public environment can only end one way for most MP’s hunted down by those media who have got to know an MP with friendly twitter banter sending the MP into a false sense of security that they are your actual mates.

Which if you are involved in any way in politics you will already know and as Aaron Gilmore found out this past week, when the shit hits the fan as an MP you have precious few real friends in politics least of all once they get a sniff of the possibility of your impending doom, any of the Press Gallery or political reporters.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.