A few months ago I wrote about the use of Twitter by politicians. It was election time. Politicians all wanted to influence the public opinion by posting tweets, and they did. Tweets and retweets followed each other rapidly. During some debates on national television, the debate itself was the subject with the largest number of followers on Twitter worldwide. Meanwhile, the battle for the votes was fought and a government has been formed. Our new prime minister Rutte was one of few politicians who didn’t use Twitter during election time. Will he be using Twitter? And how active are the other politicians at the moment?
Results from Politiek Online show that the number of tweets dropped quickly after the elections. Before the elections, all politicians from the liberal party VVD together sent up to 1405 tweets a week. This number decreased to 532 messages a week after election time. The same trend is shown at the other parties: PvdA (before 737 tweets per week, after 210), D66 (before 762, after 321), CDA (before 902, after 366) and GroenLinks (before 822, after 452).
While the number of Tweets by politicians decreased, the total amount of Twitterusers (Tweeps) in the Netherlands increased from 191.000 in July to 314.000 in October. The top 10 most active Tweeps in The Netherlands contains only one politician: Femke Halsema. Other politicians still have an account, but don’t leave many tweets. The content of these tweets has changed from personal during the elections to political after the elections. By tweeting about their personal lives, the politicians wanted to build a reliable image. This change in the use of social media also attended the new prime minister. Mark Rutte joined Twitter and left Hyves. His Twitteraccount is strictly managed by the Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst (RVD) and contains only political messages and no longer personal facts.
Twitter can be used for interaction between citizens and politicians. Because of the growing number of Tweeps in The Netherlands, the possibilities to create this interaction by Twitter are growing. In my opinion Twitter is used to shoot messages to the public instead of interact with the public, while the main reason should be creating support for policy measures. Because of the drastic measures that have to be taken by the new government, it’s important to create support for the difficult choices that are made. It’s also possible to make the public part of the policy development. For this purpose I would like to repeat what I said in my blog on June 7: create separate Twitter accounts for separate issues. The public and politicians who are closely concerned with an issue can become a member of this account. Both parties get the possibility to discuss various parts within the issue. These discussions may contribute to the development of new policy.
The main question at this moment is which politician dares to start the discussion with the public, and believes that the discussion will contribute the support for drastic measures. To challenge the politicians to discuss these matters, I want to ask the Tweeps to send direct messages to the politicians which contain a call for interaction.