Treasury Board of Canada President Tony Clement, sometimes known as the tweeting minister, spoke at last week’s IABC 2012 Canada Business Communicators’ Summit in Ottawa. His told the audience of public relations professionals about his own social media journey and shared some insight into how he sees politics in the age of social media.
Clement started out on Twitter only after he realised that people were mentioning him there. “I thought I’d better figure it out,” he said. “As a defensive mechanism, I thought that I should try to understand Twitter better. That’s when one of my staff members set up my account.”
Before long he was following a few people and sending out a few tweets. He decided that very early on that he would be tweeting for himself, instead of having a staffer take on the task. He explained, “I wanted my own voice. I didn’t want to be tweeting nothing but links to press releases. I wanted to create a little dimensionality.“
Clement says that he is a hockey fan, a football fan and that he likes alternative rock bands. He is able to use Twitter to share his enthusiasm for these things, and give people more of sense of who he really is. “It gives a sense of authenticity,” he said. “Twitter very quickly morphed into an aspect of my life where I could be creative. “
Clement follows back most Canadians. As a result his Twitter feed is a tsunami of news.
“Now I don’t have to search for what’s new going on. I just turn on my phone, click on my app, and I find out very quickly if there is something going on in the world that I need to know about.”
But for Clement what’s really cool about Twitter is that it allows him to interact directly with citizens. “It’s very liberating,” he said. If you want to talk to me by phone or by mail, there are at least two or three people between us. Now there is no barrier. I think that is incredible.”
Tweetchats are an extension of this interaction. Clement ran a tweetchat to get feedback to gain a better understanding of how to get his open government initiative rolling. “It’s another arrow in my quiver on how I can communicate with people. We still have our traditional means by which we communicate, but this adds to it,” he said.
However, Clement confirms that Twitter does pose some risk for him. “Twitter can be a dangerous place because people are not always so forgiving,” he explained. “When you are in the political space there is always some negativity. It’s a drawback, but not a reason not to engage.”
Still, for Clement, Twitter is more than worthwhile. “Despite some of the drawbacks, Twitter is great way to announce news and to crowd source public opinion. You’ll be seeing more of those kinds of activities,” he said.