Too many twits make a … David Cameron should read Tweetminster's UK politics report

[UK] When the UK’s Conservative Party leader David Cameron explained why he didn’t use Twitter, suggesting that “too many twits might make a twat“, it looks like his party members were listening.

A new report by UK startup Tweetminster, which analysed 831,349 tweets from British MPs, political parties and news sources, finds that politicians from Labour, the Conservative Party’s main rival, dominate Twitter in comparison, both in terms of the number of followers (113,201 vs 36,874) and number of tweets posted. In other words, Cameron’s party is tweeting a lot less. But there’s a twist in the report’s conclusion.

tweetminWhile the Conservatives’ use of Twitter is much more top-down with greater reliance on the Party machinery compared to Labour’s grass-roots approach, its message is getting through. The report finds that the Conservative Party’s tweets from its official Twitter account have greater reach in terms of how many times they are re-tweeted (another Twitter user reposting the original ‘tweet’), which is comparable to mainstream media, and concludes that “the next election (on Twitter at least) will be between the Conservative party machine and Labour’s grassroots activists.”

(FYI, the Liberal Democrats’ usage sits somewhere in between.)

Other findings from the Tweetminster report, which covered tweets from January 1st 2009 and January 15th 2010, include:

  • As already mentioned: In terms of politicians, the Labour Party dominates all key metrics – collectively Labour MPs and PPCs are more active, more frequently mentioned (i.e. have greater reach) and have more followers than the two other main parties combined.
  • Senior party members can play a critical role in connecting with members of the public.
  • Established mainstream news sources have a higher number of followers than bloggers and commentators, but individual journalists and bloggers receive more mentions and retweets. This, the report suggests, is likely due to a combination of factors – “including that the latter are more engaging, post different angles and commentary around a story, and established sources tend to broadcast links (that followers may click on but not interact with the source) or stories that followers have caught up with elsewhere.”

Lastly, one other stat caught my eye. When Tweetminster was launched in December 2008, there were only 4 British MPs using Twitter. As of January 19th 2010, there are 111 MPs and 226 PPCs using the service, and although this is probably inline with Twitter’s overall growth in the UK, it does prove that politicians have embraced microblogging in just the same way as celebrities have.

Is there no escape?