David Cameron checks-in to EU summit, but local politicians still nervous about social

David Cameron: set to join the world of TwitterPrime Minister David Cameron arrived in Brussels today to discuss the EU Budget with other senior political figures. It’s a difficult issue for the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party that he leads, so Cameron’s team will be keen to get his message out, especially as rumours are  now circulating that the summit has stopped without agreement. As is the way in modern politics, social media will be a key part of this.

Indeed, one of he Prime Minister’s first actions was to check-in on Foursquare as he arrived at the summit:

Foursquare is becoming a growing, and I think very important, weapon in political communications and campaigning. Indeed, President Obama signed up during his recent successful Presidential Campaign.

He also tweeted out an initial statement, using a variety of budget debate related hashtags to make sure as many people saw it as possible.

However, as the talks have progressed, and then seemingly stalled, more mocking hashtags have been created, (although not used by the Prime Minister!) This time it’s #rompuyshambles, showing many believe the failure of the talks is down to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

Those in local government are also beginning to finally realise the importance of social media too. For example, Conway Borough council have recently released a nine page report look at how its members can interact using social media. The Council acknowledges that social media could be beneficial, and is indeed already being used by many elected members, but also highlights some risks:

“Elected Members making use of Social Media are easily identifiable as Councillors. This can blur the boundaries between official business and personal or political use. There is a risk that comments made over Social Media could incorrectly be seen as representative of the Authority.

“Given the ‘instant’ nature of Social Media for online casual chatter,there is a risk that contributors could be drawn into expressing personal or political opinions, rather than keeping comments purely factual when discussing Council business.”

Ultimately they concede that social media “is already an accepted method of communication” in politics with politicians from President Barack Obama to Welsh Secretary David Jones leading the way.”

It does seem rather odds that in 2012 documents of this nature are still required.  Local politicians should be using social media to engage fully with their communities, and it seems even more overdue when you see figures like the Prime Minister incorporating it as an essential part of their communication from major events.