Politico have done an analysis of MPs' Twitter habits, who they follow, and who follows them. All very interesting, I suppose, although you wonder how much it matters.
Of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons, 579 of them have Twitter accounts. 82% of Tory MPs are on Twitter, a little lower than the 91% of Labour MPs who tweet. All very well but what do they do with them? Some of them use them to follow other people, but never tweet themselves. Others tweet like they have twitter-diarrhea. Some just tweet about local constituency issues, others only pontificate on national debates. Some have tens of thousands of followers, others barely get into four figures.
Politico's research shows that the majority of MPs feel comfortable in their Twitter Echo Chamber. That maybe doesn't come as a huge surprise.
Politico has also published a list of the journalists who are most popular among MPs on Twitter. Seeing as I never self-describe as a journalist, I was surprised to be included on the list, but was very pleased to see I rank above Tom Newton-Dunn, Adam Boulton, Sophy Ridge and Jim Pickard. However, I'd better up my game and climb a few places next year.
173 Conservative MPs follow me (67% of Tory MPs who are on Twitter), 117 Labour MPs (49% of Labour MPs who are on Twitter), 10 SNP MPs, 9 TIGs and 6 LibDems.
If you scroll down the Politico article, just type in your Twitter handle in the box at the end and you can see how many MPs follow you.
I must admit, I don't follow huge numbers of MPs, because of the inane things they often tweet. If I read the phrase "Labour doorstep", I generally reach for the Unfollow button. Has a politician ever tweeted: "Was out canvassing this afternoon. Reaction was terrible. We're gonna lose." Clearly not. MPs need to keep it real on Twitter and not just utter political platitudes. If they're going to appeal to people on social media we want to know what they really think and get an impression of what they're like as people as well as politicians.
In theory, it ought to be constituents who should be the biggest influencers on MPs, but I wonder how much most MPs actually engage with their constituents? I'm not an MP but I am constantly surprised by the number of people who are totally shocked and surprised when I reply to a tweet they have sent me. Clearly their experience is that people in the public eye tend to be rather aloof. Now I don't pretend that I can reply to every tweet sent to me - it's impossible when I sometimes get ten tweets a minute. But if someone asks me an interesting question or makes an interesting comment, of course I'll engage with them.
Of course the main problem here is that many MPs don't actually tweet themselves - it's all done by their staff. That's why so many of their tweets are so bland.
MPs still have a lot to learn about social media, but then again so do many journalists. Just as well I don't count myself as a journalist, eh?