Report: Tony Clement beats Stephen Harper on Twitter; most MPs are still pre-2002

Report: Tony Clement beats Stephen Harper on Twitter; most MPs are still pre-2002

Twitter awaits its time to shine on Parliament Hill (Image: scazon)

How do modern politics and social media mix? Not well, it seems. A new report by digital public affairs strategist and self-proclaimed “thought-leader” Mark Blevis looks at some of the main forms of social media and how they’re being used by politicians in Ottawa.  The verdict isn’t great: few MPs have so much as a Twitter account, and most who do mainly use it to spam their followers with press releases. One exception to this rule is Tony Clement, something that won’t be a surprise to his legion of 10,638 followers.

According to Blevis’s report, “Peace, Order and Googleable Government”:

@TonyClement_MP has 7,848 followers [this figure is from the time the report was written; Clement currently has 10,638—ed.] , with a Klout score of 62 and True Reach of 3,000. This means MP Tony Clement has a respectable amount of influence and a reasonably attentive audience. By contrast, @PMHarper, the official account of PM Stephen Harper has 80,698 followers (the most among Canadian MPs), a Klout score of 58 and True Reach of only 9.

Since he started Tweeting in March 2010, Tony Clement has set the bar high for Tweeting MPs. Mr. Clement Tweets a nice blend of information, entertainment and political value. Like many, he’s experienced some of the dizzying highs of social media success and flirted with the dangerous waters of digital missteps. However, he’s navigated the culture very well.

Faced with the prospect of being less popular than his industrious minister, Harper is expected to tweet the new tour dates of his Beatles cover band. Just kidding.

Clement may be a champion, but he didn’t make the first parliamentary mention of Twitter. That incident sprang from a big no-no: Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh announced that he’d tweeted something confidential. Meanwhile, outside of a few early adopters (if we can still call them that), parliament is wildly behind the times. The vast majority of MPs don’t have blogs of any description, and a few don’t even have Web sites (In 2011!). It’s not known at press time how many MPs still knock stones together for warmth and lighting.

Politics in the era of social media has a fascinating tension to it. On the one hand, modern political parties thrive on message discipline that limits what party members (and especially sitting MPs) can say. On the other hand, as politicians adopt new technologies they actually help make their politics more engaging by breaking message discipline—or if you’re Tony Clement, announcing some important policy decisions on Twitter.

We can’t say which side will win out, but we’re rooting for Twitter. The possibility of even juicier twit fights between elected officials is too tempting to ignore.

• Peace, Order and Googleable Government [Mark Blevis]
• Where Tony Clement outranks Stephen Harper [Globe and Mail]
• @TonyClement_MP [Twitter]
• @PMHarper [Twitter]