How are Lib Dem councillors using Twitter/Facebook?

by Stephen Tall on June 30, 2009

Today’s Times reports on the growth of Twitter and Facebook among councillors, noting in particular the work of one Lib Dem councillor/blogger, Daisy Benson:

Daisy Benson, a Liberal Democrat member of Reading Borough Council, used Facebook to encourage young people to take part in a scrutiny review of the standard of private rented housing in the area. “I used it because the issue we were looking at particularly affected students and young people and it’s a good way to reach them.”

Benson set up a Facebook group and listed the consultation questions. The group attracted more than 80 members. Among them was a local student, Neal Brown, who says that it was the first time he had taken part in a council initiative. “Facebook makes it easier for young people and students to get involved. While joining relatively silly groups about TV shows and such like, they are also joining groups with serious intent.”

Benson adds: “I’m certainly trying to impress on my council that using Facebook is a good thing to do. It’s cheap and it reaches a lot of people but it wouldn’t be suitable for every issue or every audience.”

The use of social networking by councillors (and MPs) is frequently highlighted here on LDV – but what are the best examples you’ve seen, whether by Lib Dems or by other parties?

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Currently, Lib Dem councillors are gunking up Facebook by setting up dozens of groups in support of their candidacies in GLA internal elections. Not sure if it has much to do with engagement but it is very annoying.

by James Graham on June 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm. Reply #

In Swansea West the PPC and local Councillor has set up a facebook group for the high number of students in his ward. He has identified them by cross-referencing with the electoral register and invited them to join the group. He has several hundred members. He sends out weekly bulletins to group members telling them about refuse collections, offering help with garden clearance, black bags etc as well as other environmental issues thatoften cause tensions between pernmanent residents and students. He also has a ready-made e-mail group to send out other messages including where and when to vote.

by Peter Black on June 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm. Reply #

James

You mean LGA elections – not GLA.

“Gunking up Facebook” for the GLA elections will probably happen next year….

by Nick on June 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm. Reply #

Certainly a good thing to get people more involved, but it’s important to realise that:

(a) “use facebook” or “use twitter” is not how you do it
(b) failing to use internet services is not the problem

You get people involved by reaching out to them in terms they can understand on issues that they care about. Daisy Benson happened to do this using facebook, but it didn’t work *because* she used facebook. The people who are using it to promote their candidacies have failed to understand this – they think that the medium is what matters, and they’re annoying people because their message is annoying.

You don’t need to use web sites to do it, either (although they can be an effective communication tool). What you do need to do is address the root problem: it is too hard for people to get involved, usually because you’ve been running around building barriers to stop them. By all means use the web, but why do you have those barriers in the first place?

by Andrew Suffield on June 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm. Reply #

Andrew is right – Facebook and Twitter are useful tools but for a campaign to be effective you need to be clear about your aims, what your trying to achieve, who you’re trying to reach and why. Being in touch with local people, responding to their concerns and empowering them to campaign for change is at the root of traditional community politics and Lib Dem campaigning. I see Facebook as a just another form of communication suited to some audiences and not others and to be used carefully alongside more established techniques. One of the great things about Facebook and Twitter is it helps get our message out to a wider audience saving time and money in the process. Clearly, if messages are not targetted people get turned off. You need a balance.

by Cllr Daisy Benson on July 1, 2009 at 1:06 am. Reply #

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