Elliot Parkus, head of marketing and strategy, AdConnection
Elliot Parkus, head of marketing and strategy, AdConnection
A view from Elliot Parkus

Think BR: Does Twitter get your vote?

David Cameron can't be half-hearted if he wants to succeed on Twitter, writes Elliot Parkus, head of marketing and strategy, AdConnection.

With over 100 million people worldwide now on Twitter, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the tweeters include the Dalai Lama, Rupert Murdoch, Queen Rania of Jordan and Pope Benedict XVI.

David Cameron has joined the social network rather later than most of his contemporaries, but chose the party conference to finally announce his arrival on the social network. Why now, why join at all - is this a necessary move to reach out to, and reassure the electorate? 

Thus far, Cameron doesn’t seem disposed to engaging with the unconverted - almost everyone he’s following is a Tory MP.  He is, of course, being followed by more than 100,000 people, but this lack of engagement suggests he only wants to appeal to the party faithful. Twitter rookie mistake.

Twitter is undeniably a fantastic platform for many brands, be they product, people or political parties, but as ever, the tweeter needs to ask serious questions of their motives and expected outcomes on such a public platform.

It is of course now so mainstream that this week alone, the future King has been reportedly joking with Ashley Cole about having his account removed, and the Daily Mirror now runs a Tweet of the Day snippet. Everyone’s doing it, so why not David Cameron?

The thing is, Twitter isn’t for everybody and it isn’t for every brand. Brands that do well in social have good reasons for being there - they offer enhanced engagement with consumers, rich content and a direct relationship with their current and potential customers.

Cameron’s advisers haven’t got this right yet. The Prime Minister’s first tweet is testament to that.  With a promise "not to tweet too much" it overtly reflects a proposition of under sharing and reduced engagement - the antithesis of the platform.

Inevitably Cameron’s arrival on Twitter has generated a huge amount of media interest, and arguably, that’s all his camp wanted. However, if there is one thing they really should know and act on, it's that hype without content will not sustain you in social media. 

It’s early days, but the first tweets are clunky and awkward and the posted pictures are horribly and obviously stage-managed.

By contrast, and as unlikely as it may seem, Boris Johnson, Tony Blair, Sarah Brown and many others are using the platform well. They have been doing it a while longer and have lots of content in the form of information and opinion.

Cameron is in an altogether more exposed position, of course, and has to appear in a safer, more constructed way. This begs the question why bother at all if you are so obviously hamstrung by the party line, and why have your first foray on the network at such a crucial time ?

High profile people in social media, obviously, need to be extra careful - but they are routinely punished for looking fake - authenticity in social really is the price of entry.

Cameron could do worse that look to broadcaster Judy Finnigan who recently explained that her husband Richard Madeley loves Twitter; he is on it often, is opinionated and engaged. 

She has no problem at all with this, but will not, under any circumstances, join herself - she is too shy, doesn’t understand its appeal, and I suspect, would rather be doing other things in the real world.

Twitter is a massive phenomenon, and to us in media land, a fantastic potential advertising medium for many. However, it isn’t the only show in town - there are many other ways of reaching customers. 

Deciding on the right channels to amplify your brand is an intricate business, it’s about the overall strategy, the timing, the message and so many other complex considerations, with a backdrop of constant change and challenge. 

Throw Twitter into the mix, and getting your message across has never seemed more confusing for most brands, as David Cameron is no doubt finding out. Twitter is certainly not for the faint hearted and never, ever for the half-hearted.

Elliot Parkus, head of marketing and strategy, AdConnection