Politician & MP for Inverclyde David Cairns recently visited the Hobo offices for a few hours, and during that time I pointed out to him something called Twitter.
Since then, I see him in my stream clearly engaging with folks via his Twitter account, so I asked him a few questions about Social Media’s impact this election.
This is the first time your using Twitter as a communication tool this election. How are you finding it?
Loving it. Fascinating to see people’s reactions to events as they unfold in (near) real time, as well as get sign-posted to some interesting articles and stories.
What are you using it for?
Mainly for sharing my views on whats going on and replying to constituents who ask me stuff.
For you, what is Twitter is good for?
All of the above. But it has its limits. One guy asked me to sum up my Party’s manifesto and give him reasons why he should vote for me in 140 characters. I had a go but it proved to be a ridiculous exercise – how can you reduce these massive issues to a few words without utterly trivialising or generalisng really important stuff? He was very snotty when I told him I couldn’t do it.
Do you converse with other politicians on Twitter? Who’s interesting out of those politicians?
Not really. Only my mates Tom Harris and Eric Joyce. But it just saves me texting them.
Maybe you should tell Tom to get his picture in there, lest he looks like a Twitter spam bot… Do you converse with other parties politicians on Twitter or do you keep to your own?
I converse with a few Tory and Nat bloggers but not politicians.
Twitter is all about personality and ‘the conversation’ – but politicians obviously need to be a bit more careful about what they tweet. Are you careful with what you tweet?
You better believe it! I have many journalists and opposition supporters among my followers all waiting for a gaffe.
What do you think about the Labour candidate Stuart MacLennan who was forced out because of random tweets?
What he said was offensive and silly, and if you are a candidate you are a representative of your party so you can’t get away with this stuff, as you would if you were a private citizen.
Do you promote your Twitter account in other places?
Yes, in my campaign leaflets and my website. My follwers have increased a lot though I’m still a minnow.
Are you actively trying to seek out twitter users in inverclyde or letting them come to you?
Not really seeking them out, but a few have found me.
Well you can use a Twitter directory to find folks in the area and follow them if you want to be more proactive and get your numbers up….. Are you finding constituents are conversing with you on Twitter?
A few, but far fewer than those who e-mail.
Whats the most valuable source of advertising for you? If it’s the local press, do you think social media will replace this if not now, in the future?
Local press by a long way. Local paper sells 18,000 copies a day in Inverclyde so probably read by around 45,000 people. Social media has a very long way to go to catch up, but it will in time.
You seem to be getting the hang of Twitter – A lot of social media experts have been thinking social media like Twitter will play a big roll in the forthcoming general election – what’s the most import channel to connect with voters for you?
The medium that has actually had the biggest impact in the election has been TV, with the Leaders’ Debates changing the whole nature of the campaign. Social media is growing in importance but its day has not yet come.
Are you using any other networks like Facebook?
No. I can’t quite devote the time to it.
Tell me why Inverclyde folk should choose labour over the other parties?
I will, but not in 140 characters! I grew up in Inverclyde in the early years of the Thatcher Government. I watched as the ship-yards and sugar refineries closed down. I went to a dilapidated, run-down school. A whole generation of young people were written off and our pensioners fell further into poverty. Its taken a while but Inverclyde is finally recovering from the Tory years. Everywhere you look there are signs of regeneration: new schools, new homes, new roads, new offices, new facilities and amenities. This is happeneing because we have a Labour Government that is not prepared to walk away from Inverclyde, but has invested in its people and our future. Thats why voters should reject a return to the Tory years; the only way of making sure that they don’t get back in is to vote Labour.
Thanks to David for taking a few minutes to answer my questions as I expect he’s busy this week :)
You can catch up with David on Twitter or drop any questions in the comments below.
(Inverclyde covers Greenock – where Hobo is based, Port Glasgow, Gourock, Wemyss Bay & Inverkip, Kilmacolm & Quarrier’s Village in case you don’t know.
NB – This interview was completed while David was a Member of Parliament. As Parliament has been dissolved there are no Members of Parliament until after the UK General Election on 6th May 2010. Please note that David Cairns MP has unfortunately passed away since the publishing of this article. RIP.