It's now been 50 days since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last posted from her Twitter account @jacindaardern. It's a bizarre situation for a Prime Minister who's proven so popular on social media.
She, or someone working for, has obviously logged into the account since the election, as the account's biography has been updated to reflect her becoming Prime Minister.
In that same time Prime Minister Ardern has posted 28 times to her Facebook page and 18 times to her Instagram account.
It's not the first time her Twitter account has gone silent. There was a similar 33 day gap between 20 August and 22 September right in the middle of the election campaign, which only ended with an event done in conjunction with Twitter's politics arm to have Jacinda reply to questions put to her over the platform on Election Day Eve.
Not tweeting seems to be a very odd strategy. Twitter has a generally left leaning audience who are going to be sympathetic towards the content Jacinda could post. Likewise the numbers following her account have grown by more than 20,000 people in the weeks since the election.
While I've always argued that the bulk of a politicians social media focus should be on Facebook given that the audience there is more representative of New Zealand as a whole, Twitter can and should still play a role in your approach. Twitter is often described as being "where news breaks", and as a result, it counts among its users some of the most influential journalists, business and community leaders, bloggers, and commentators in the country. By ensuring you're posting frequently on Twitter, you're making sure your messaging gets in front of them before someone else's does.
Instead, Labour appears to be putting all their energy into the Labour Party Twitter account @nzlabour. That's not entirely a bad thing, but in my experience, people are far more inclined to follow, interact with, and share content coming from a personal account rather than a political party account. With more than 109,000 followers on the @jacindaardern account, the Prime Minister is missing out on a chance to seriously amplify the messaging of the Labour-led government.
As it stands, Labour's apparent strategy of not having Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweet at all seems like a massive wasted opportunity.
Russell Brown noticed this week that Jacinda Ardern hasn't tweeted since 20 August. It's struck me as a little odd as it's not that much effort to take a Facebook post and turn it into a tweet. While I did jokingly ask Labour whether they'd lost her Twitter password, it turns out that she was never that particularly active on Twitter anyway.
Looking back at August she tweeted a grand total of 11 times. Over that same time frame Bill English has tweeted 110 times!
It strikes me as a bit bizarre. Generally speaking the demographics of Twitter suggest its audience is hugely receptive to her content. Judging by the response her three tweets received when she became Labour Party leader, it's really surprising that they haven't done more here, especially with more than 82,000 followers. That's a lot of potential amplification for your content from a very sympathetic audience.
There's a few possibilities I think could be at play:
- They're wanting to leave Jacinda's Twitter account as something she runs herself. The fascination with President Trump's personal use of Twitter does suggest that leaving a leader to use their own Twitter account as they see fit could be an effective way to get your message out, especially if it's devoid of Trump's craziness. The problem is you probably need your leader to use Twitter for it to be effective.
- Labour is consciously trying to get journalists and bloggers to go to Facebook to see what Jacinda's doing, and to embed that Facebook content onto their websites directly rather than from Twitter. This approach does have its merits, as Facebook is a far superior platform to reach voters with, while journalists and influencers generally use Twitter to keep up with events. If you force them to embed your Facebook content into their stories so by directing your content solely to Facebook they'll be forced to support how that channel performs.
- Labour might be trying to avoid adding to Jacinda's public profile given the near blanket coverage she's received since becoming leader, and thus avoid Jacinda-fatigue. Though given how prominently she features on all their campaign collateral this seems unlikely.
- Tying back into my first idea, as a result of campaigning, Jacinda hasn't had time to tweet that often. Though I did see one journalist make the point (and I wish I could find the story or tweet I saw it in) that Jacinda has only had one or two carefully choreographed events in front of large Labour Party faithful crowds each day for the past week, presumably as she swatted up ahead of the debate and to avoid any awkward optics that might suggest that the Jacinda effect is tapering off. A look through her Facebook feed seems to confirm this rather quiet campaigning approach leading up to the debate.
- Labour realised most of Twitter's active users are already either voting for them or the Greens and have decided to invest their efforts in Facebook where they can try to reach soft-National and NZ First voters, as well as undecided voters, to persuade them to come back to the fold.
That final point is the one that I think is most likely here. There's probably elements of the other possibilities lurking around, but I think the main driver will be that Labour know Twitter is overwhelmingly going to vote for a centre-left government, so they're investing their resources elsewhere.
But I can't think for the life of me the last time a leader who wants to be the head of government has effectively switched off one of their social media channels in one such a tightly contested election.