If an MP tweets and nobody hears...

Parliament's most prolific Twitter users ranked, and they might not like the results

They are the elected representatives of the nation, and when they stand up to speak they expect people to take notice.

So MPs may be disappointed by the findings of a new study into their use of Twitter, which has shown that quantity does not always mean quality, and some of Whitehall’s most prolific tweeters find themselves struggling to find anyone who will listen.

The report, featured in the Sunday Times and commissioned by IT company Tech Mahindra, ranks MPs by the number of people who follow them per tweet they send out.

As you might expect given his recent and well-publicised adoption of the social media platform, Prime Minister David Cameron has the most impressive followers-per-tweet ratio: with a potential audience of 372,800 people and having tweeted just 261 times, his “listening” score is nearly 1,500.

George Osborne does similarly well, with more than 55,000 followers after tweeting little more than a 100 times.

But they are the exception rather than the rule. Julian Huppert, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, has what seems initially to be an impressive following of 11,000. That rather pales into insignificance, however, when you see that he has tweeted a staggering 33,000 times.

The vast majority of these posts are actually “retweets”, automatically regurgitating what someone else has said. Mr Huppert can be found regularly spreading the word on behalf of the Lib Dem Press Office and the news source “libdemvoice”, amongst others.

And even when he writes posts himself, it is to say things like: “Now on an extremely crowded and hot train back to Cambridge…”, posted on 19 July.

Parliament’s most prolific tweeter, the Labour MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy, has 19,200 followers for her 41,245 tweets. She at least has a better ratio than Mr Huppert – perhaps because of the fact that she uses the platform to respond to specific individuals, rather than sending out retweets.

AK Narayanan, Tech Mahindra’s vice-president for Europe, told the Sunday Times: “Engaging with followers and getting involved in conversations is by far the most effective way of building your Twitter base.”

And Respect MP George Galloway, who is happy to engage in debates with individuals, online or not, has one of the biggest political followings on Twitter. At more than 150,000 people, he seems far more popular than the profile for his own party. Perhaps this could suggest that on Twitter, personality is always going to beat politics. 

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