To Trend or not to Trend: How to Influence your MP
Helen Turner Oxfam Media Officer in the North
26th Apr 2013
Do you want to influence your MP? Public Affairs Assistant Ali Sameer reveals the best way to get your voice heard:
The older generation is sceptical of it; the new generation values it more than freedom. Yes, I am referring to this generational divider known collectively as social media.
In developing countries, where some governments are failing to provide food and education, the local mobile companies are providing gprs services at very affordable rates. Social media's role in society is constantly evolving. In years to come, if you ask who is the most intelligent person on earth the answer might be Google or Ipad.
So, how can you use this to your advantage? You might never get the chance to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, but by following him on twitter (rather than stalking!) you might get an answer to one of your questions, probably from a team of personal tweeters but it's a start.
Some politicians hold live "on-air" sessions on Twitter, making themselves available during that time to answer your questions. MP Alistair Burt, for example, held a twitter Q&A on the Arms Trade Treaty. It's a great way to get your opinions heard and anyone with internet access can do it.
But of course there are divided opinions on using twitter and other social media. Some MPs are very active on Twitter, finding it a useful tool to engage with thousands of people. It's an easy way of finding out the views of their constituents or telling them what they are getting up to in parliament or in their constituency. For other MPs, it is an exclusive, trivial and elite form of communication - they prefer to do things old school - via emails or formal letters.
We now have access to celebrities and influential people that we couldn't have dreamed of before - in some ways it's a great equaliser. If you are following your MP on twitter and have a look at their picture gallery, they appear much like the rest of us; they talk about what football team they support and their opinions on everyday matters.
In terms of campaigning and exerting influence on the issues you care about, this access provides us with an opportunity to build a relationship with that MP. We can find out more about what matters to them and see if there are areas of agreement or opportunities to engage. We can tweet them, retweet them and do all sorts of things to get their attention.
Twitter has provided MPs with a new platform to reach a wider audience and in the near future it wouldn't be surprising to see the current letter-writing MPs putting down their pens and picking up their smart phones. In today's world if you are trending, you are trendsetter.
Do you want to know more about using social media to reach and influence your MP? Then, why not come along to our training session in Leeds on the 16 May, 6.30-8.30pm. Open to all, this session is free but places are limited so please register here: http://influencingyourmp.eventbrite.co.uk
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