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Politicians shouldn't use social media just for the sake of it argues tweeting MP

A new paper by a prominent tweeting MP for POLIS, the LSE media think-tank, suggests that new forms of communication, such as Twitter and Facebook, are necessary tools for political campaigning and for the future of democracy. But politicians need to start thinking of social media as a two-sided conversation and not just like a party political broadcast.

Introducing this paper, POLIS director Charlie Beckett said: “We live in an age where the citizen feels increasingly sceptical about those who run our lives. Paradoxically, this is also an era when the communicative power of new media technologies mean that the potential for interaction between voter and politicians has never been greater.”

‘Perpetual Engagement: The potential and pitfalls of using social media for political campaigning’, by former LSE student Stella Creasy MP, suggests that new forms of communication will play an increasingly important role in elections and campaigns. But politicians often fall into a number of traps such as using losing sight of why they are communicating in this relatively new way and, fundamentally, that it is the message that matters not the medium.

Creasy herself is an example of a politician successfully using social media for campaigning, generating widespread support for her calls to introduce legislation to tackle legal loan sharking. She argues that the new power of online communication means that “people want a conversation not a broadcast”.

The model of perpetual engagement ultimately seeks a different role for the representative. It’s a move away from the old customer complaints desk model of communications: I tell you how great I am, and you tell me when you’re cross.”

The paper will be launched at the LSE POLIS conference on ‘Media and Power’ on Friday 10th June. Speaking at this conference will be Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy from Channel 4 News and Peter Horrocks, Director BBC Global News.

As well as WikiLeaks and the Middle East uprisings, the conference will be looking at a range of pertinent debates in the media world: are newspapers still powerful? Where are the new watchdogs? How do you build media for democracy? What do we need to know for an informed society? It will be about the big ideas but also the practical skills journalists need and the real world problems they face.

Further information about the conference and details of how to register for a free ticket are available here: http://www.charliebeckett.org/?p=4109

The report ‘Perpetual Engagement’ can be downloaded here: http://www.charliebeckett.org/?p=4545

9 June 2011