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John Key is top of the twits on 50K. Here's how the others are faring

Tue, 12 Jun 2012

The Prime Minister hit 50,000 followers on Twitter yesterday.

Here's how he's faring against other leaders, via some live-updating follow links (hit Ctrl-F5 to refresh your browser for the lastest numbers).

There's a lot of daylight between Mr Key and his nearest rival, Labour leader David Shearer on just over 3000.

So is social media the secret to the PM's success?

I doubt it.

Like the man himself, @JohnKeyPM (openly managed by his staff) is competent, but determinedly bland. It doesn't depart from the script followed elsewhere, but it provides lots of details for the party faithful, and unreconstructed political junkies. A very well organised account, and through the PM's twitpics you do get to see the world.

Think, lots of logistical updates, and none of the partisan sniping or gossipy asides that can make some MPs fun to follow (think National's "West Side Tory", aka Tau Henare, Labour's Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard, or on occassion the Green's yoof MP Gareth Hughes).

As a journalist I love Twitter and LinkedIn (and to a lesser degree Facebook). They're great sources of story tips, a great way to follow trend-setters in a particular industry, and to get a sense of how the community's reacting to various developments.

But for a politician, I'm not so sure.

I don't think a lot of the tech people I follow (and who follow me) are representative of the broader population, but they are often adept at spotting trends that ultimately filter into the mainstream.

But many of those who follow politicians are at the political margins, and always will be. I don't think Twitter is always an accurate barometer of where middle New Zealand is heading.

I can see how Twitter and other social networks were a phenomenally useful tool for Barak Obama during his first presidential campaign as he organised in 50 states, many of them unknown territory and with many far-flung supports to be linked up. But in the claustrophic New Zealand environment - not so much.

There is entertainment and insight to be had on Twitter for political junkies, but most of it doesn't come from our elected representatives but hard-knuckled pundits who make no pretence of neutrality such as David Farrar, WhaleOil and CactusKate.

And if you follow political journos, you'll find some delicious insights that may or may not make it into their reports later in the day.

A personal favourite came this afternoon, as question time began (which NBR's office was watching via Parliament TV's fixed cameras), and much ribbing over the ACC was expected:

"Michelle Boag is sitting in the public gallery right in the eyeline of Judith Collins," tweeted TV3's Patrick Gower.

Links to some of those mentioned above, if you want to follow them, plus a few others - whether you're a fan or want to keep track of the opposite team:

 (Warning: extreme stripes)

 (NBR's man in the Press Gallery)

If there's a politician or commentator you love to follow, by all means share in Comments below (please, none of those leaden parody accounts. None can hope to match the real-life tweets of, say Melissa Lee with her inadvertant admission of digital piracy on the eve of the three-strikes file sharing law - or indeed Tau's cheerful admission he had committed that crime).

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John Key is top of the twits on 50K. Here's how the others are faring