Accusing politicians of being inaccessible to the people they purport to represent is hardly an original notion. For years gone by, critics have accused elected representatives of sitting in an ivory tower and passing laws for a society they don’t really have any communication with. Well, whatever political beliefs you subscribe to, one thing is fast becoming clear – social media is granting us more access to our Government than ever before.
Of course, (the more cynical) marketers amongst us will argue that political communications through channels such as Twitter are simply an extension of political PR; managed by a press office function and devoid of any real authenticity. This may well be true in certain cases; however there’s no denying that Twitter also has a range of genuine politicians who are actively seeking to engage with voters and constituents through this blossoming channel.
Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, is perhaps one of the most prominent politicians to be championing social media; so much so that the Labour Party made her New Media Campaigns Spokesperson back in August. The creation of this significant role not only tasks McCarthy with encouraging MPs and government officials to use new media as a form of engagement with voters, but also demonstrates the level of importance the Government now assigns to social media as a communications tool.
Miss McCarthy is not the only politician flying the social media flag however. The list of MPs using Twitter is now too long to list individually and this can only be a good thing. Many voters remained disillusioned following the expenses scandal – an incident worsened due to its arrival in a very hard recession – so the transparency social media affords is the perfect antidote to any remaining ill feeling.
This transparency allows the public to connect with politicians like never before, especially through the real time posting of pictures, links and information. Not only can the public now feel included in current events – pictures allow them to see what’s happening and feel involved like never before. Take this (admittedly rather posed) picture of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and colleague Vince Cable (click here) – we’re involved in what they’re doing because we can see it. Instantly.
Social media does not pretend to be an answer to political problems. Just because a politician is on Twitter does not make their policies correct. However social media allows people to connect better than ever before – and goes a long way to closing the distance between the electorate and the elected.