Adelaide has had its first taste of political dirty tricks involving social media during election 2013. A State Ministerial advisor has been outed as the source of mendacious Tweets apparently designed to smear Andrew Southcott, the Liberal MP in SA’s most marginal seat, Boothby.
In a tightly fought contest campaigners from all sides are bound to seek advantage by using social media. Twitter looks like it’s often the weapon of choice. But they may need to act with caution to avoid alienating the very people they’re trying to persuade.
Australian’s Twitter use has certainly increased with the rising tide of social media popularity in recent years. This doesn’t mean that it’s a universally loved platform though. The Australian Interactive Media Industry Association’s (AIMIA) latest report on social media use in Australia shows that it’s the social medium users most often abandon by a considerable margin. Interviews conducted for one of the research projects we’re undertaking in Adelaide’s northern suburbs indicated negativity bordering on hostility towards Twitter amongst participants who were otherwise perfectly happy to use other social media.
Twitter certainly seems to be getting a bad reputation with plenty of recent reports highlighting its role in cyberbullying. If the medium is the message, politicians and their campaign staff had better take care that simply using Twitter doesn’t send out the wrong message - not withstanding any problems with the message itself!
Twitter looks like it’s a social medium that the majority of Australians are more likely to hear about through conventional news channels than actively use. Given that Twitter’s often making news for all the wrong reasons politicians and their staffers might risk guilt by association in the minds of voters if Twitter is a damaged brand. But then who’s doing the damage?