Twitter election that isn’t

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Before the 2010 Australian Federal election even started the media was going nuts with the phrase “Twitter Election” saying the social media site was going to change everything.

But, as ZDnet’s Darryl Adams pointed out, Twitter hasn’t changed the political game, it’s just changed the way political processes are analysed and viewed.

The “Twitter election” as its turned out, is now actually about journalists communicating the minutae of the campaign trail to the nerds who know who they are and are in on the wonky political jokes.

If the race to the big grassy Canberra flag knoll was being contested by Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull the role of Twitter in the election could have been significant.

They’re both prolific and entertaining Twits who understand that what Barack Obama did in 2008 was to “humanise” with social media, as UC lecturer Julie Posetti has said.

Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and their staffers have instead used the medium to broadcast press releases sans media. Gillard only joined Twitter once she became PM and Abbott hasn’t tweeted since the election began (or at least his staffers haven’t).

This adds little to election dialogue, particularly if you’re not terribly keen on replying to tweets.

Greens leader Bob Brown, who somewhat successfully joined the Leaders TV Debate via the site, has a Twitter feed made up entirely of his own tweets, sent by a staffer who copies out hand written paper notes.

Here in the ACT the candidates for the Lower House seats of Fraser and Canbera are total luddites, only Gai Brodtmann (0 tweets) and Giulia Jones (3 tweets) even have Twitter accounts – neither with pictures and amassing an amazing six and 42 followers respectively. Hello, techno power.

In stark contrast the Senate candidates for the ACT are all over the medium: Labor Senator Kate Lundy topping the pops (no surprises there) with 4126 followers and 1028 tweets at the time of publication.

Liberal Senator Gary Humphries is more than a little behind racking up 832 followers and 245 tweets (a recent addition being a CityNews retweet – thanks, Gary).

Greens Senate candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds only joined Twitter for her campaign, but has told me she’s now addicted. I’m not surprised, she carries two iphones around with her at all times. She has 321 followers and has tweeted 163 times.

Given its 140 characters rule and limited appeal to the masses, that Twitter hasn’t exactly revolutionised Australian Federal politics shouldn’t come as a total shock, but it is clear that the social networking medium has the power to shift debate within media.

Just look at its use in ABC commentary like on the television programs Q and A and the fake tweets on the Chaser’s Yes We Canberra.

Perhaps we journos should just get over ourselves, just because we’re in love with Twitter doesn’t mean Australia is. Yet.

@elermai over and out.

UPDATE: Second Labor Senate candidate David Mathews is apparently a bit of a Twitter freak. Nice to see he authorised himself to keep the tweet standards high in the Senate race!

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