Just before Christmas my colleague Andy Baker rustled up a Twitter list of all the police and crime commissioners on Twitter that we could find. Now we’ve used that to have a quick look at how the commissioners are using Twitter. I’m not going to pretend that any of this is scientific – or that a cursory glance at a bunch of people using Twitter can be used to gain any great insight into the medium, profession or, indeed, how PCCs use social media. My colleague Emma Daniel has much more meaningful stuff to say about this! As does our boss, Catherine!
None of that stops the process being interesting, of course…
Some of the numbers
We found, in total, 74 twitter accounts representing the 43 commissioners. There were 36 active official accounts in the list. The rest were mostly personal accounts or those left over from campaigns. As of the 8th of December, when we looked, the 74 accounts had sent out a total of 33,894 tweets. They were followed by a total of 53,581 twitter users and were following 22,227 users themselves, a disparity of 31,354.
Lies damn lies and statistics, eh? This says little and proves nothing I hear you demur. Yes, absolutely. All the same, it might offer us an interesting perspective on how PCCs and the office of PCCs (OPCCs) are using the social network.
Perhaps most importantly – and significantly – the vast majority of PCCs are using Twitter in one form or another. There were four apparently unused accounts, but that’s a small number when you compare PCCs to other elected politicians. In all but one case there was at least one active Twitter account for a PCC or OPCC in all the 41 police-force areas with PCCs. What other elected role could you claim that more than 97 per cent of all representatives have some active presence on Twitter?
To put this into context, Tweetminster has Twitter accounts for 409 MPs, out of a possible 649 (one seat of the 650 as of writing is vacant). That’s about 63 per cent. So there you go, PCCs are more likely to make use of Twitter than their Westminster colleagues. It isn’t, of course, a fair comparison for lots of reasons, but still, it’s interesting. (And, yes, I’m aware I keep using that word!)
We’re obviously very pleased to see that so many PCCs have some kind of presence on Twitter, given that Catherine, our chief executive, has been part of a vocal group of people (others include Sam Chapman, Russell Webster, Jon Collins, Jon Harvey and several others) who have extolled the virtues of SM to the PCCs and, prior to that, to the candidates for PCC offices. Of course, we’re all grown up (and passionate) enough to point out that this is how it should be, given that PCCs are the first major elected office to come into being in this country, following the advent of Facebook and Twitter – and that it’s up to politicians to go to the places where they can find their electorate.
A few observations
We did, as you would expect, spend a bit of time comparing the ‘performance’ of various tweeting PCCs, albeit in very crude terms. We were struck that the PCC for Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd’s @tony4gtrmcr account, has the most followers on Twitter, but has subsequently retired his account and moved to an official one, with fewer followers. It also appears (and we may be wrong, so tell us if we are) that Tony is not doing the tweeting on the official account, but did on his campaign one. This does seem a shame if it is the case, but he perhaps doesn’t have the time now.
Some PCCs are tweeting in tandem with their offices. An example would be Sue Mountstevens and the Avon and Somerset’s official account, where both the politician and the office have impressive followings. I like this approach as it gives the PCC the chance to air their views, while the office concentrates on the more procedural elements of the PCC’s work.
The biggest user of Twitter – by the crude measurement of the number of tweets – is Martyn Underhill, the PCC for Dorset. He’s tweeted more than three thousand times, using his personal (@Tosh599) account. I’d say he’s a great example of someone who has embraced the medium and done a really good job to engage there too. His profile helpfully points to the official account, which is good to see as it definitely helps people to work out the relationship.
Winston Roddick, the North Wales PCC, has just retired his personal campaign account – and has moved over to the account for the North Wales Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Winston tweeted in Welsh as well as English there, and I guess we’ll see more of that at the new account, which unfortunately we didn’t capture in our original search and therefore didn’t make it into the spreadsheet.
The great variation in the numbers of followers and the number of times accounts have been used is hard to analyse. As we’ve pointed out when we’ve made similar analyses of Twitter activity for councils and councillors, the number of followers isn’t necessarily a great indication of the value of an account. It’s clearly the case that you can be followed by lots of people but not necessarily the right people. It would be interesting – but much more difficult – to look at how relevant followings are for individual PCCs.
I’ve decided that we shouldn’t single out too many PCCs here. These results are based on a search, so we can’t be absolutely sure its results are watertight – and we know that one Twitter account, set up relatively recently, slipped through the net (@OPCCNW). You can look at the stats yourself and begin to make some observations – but I would caution trying to compare PCCs too much as the approaches to the medium are so different, and so dependant on the individuals.
As Catherine makes clear in the APCC guide: Digital Democracy, building new relationships with the public, there will be different levels of ambition for different people. While some PCCs and their offices will want to use social media to begin to establish a collaborative or even co-productive relationship with the public, others will first look to develop a more straightforward communicative relationship with the same tools. This snapshot helps, I think, to illustrate this point, because it establishes that people are making use of Twitter in quite different ways – and looking for different results.
Picture: Home Office available on Flickr – Creative Commons, CC By 2.o