Smart politicians know Twitterspeak often beats policy blah-blah

The two researchers who help me with this column, Charlie and Louise, are getting very excited. For them, a federal election is as much fun as a free day at Luna Park.

The two researchers who help me with this column, Charlie and Louise, are getting very excited. For them, a federal election is as much fun as a free day at Luna Park.

I can't quite see the difference myself sometimes, and as a boy from the bush I often get a bit sceptical about all the sound and fury. As they say around my home town of Stawell, the bigger the hat the smaller the property (member for Kennedy excepted of course).

But Louise and Charlie are into it from opposite sides of the fence. Charlie still mourns the passing of Sir Robert Menzies, and despite the fact they don't make them like that any more, he has signed up for the Liberals.

Louise is in mourning for her sister PM, but she knows what side her organic bread has the sugarless jam on. She's on the bandwagon with the current PM who is the undisputed king of social media. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has 1.28 million Twitter followers and is a dab hand at doing a "selfie".

"Steady on," conservative Charlie says.

"Relax," Louise says. "It's just a picture of yourself doing something - like Kevin did this week on Facebook when he cut himself shaving ... he bleeds you know."

With nine times more Twitter followers than Tony Abbott, the world can now bleed along with him. If you're into comparisons, Malcolm Turnbull beats Abbott with a total of more than 178,000.

I started looking at this media trend after Barack Obama secured his second term as President. He has 34 million Twitter followers and the day after his re-election last year, a photo of him and and his wife, Michelle, became the most popular tweet ever. He shared a message directly with his followers: "This happened because of you. Thank you." Seven words that meant everything to being President and showed Obama's ability to bypass policy talk and speak to people directly with personal emotion.

The new world is about social media. Not that the old world has disappeared, it's just not as important as it used to be. And the old world of media is even less important for this election because there will be 1.3 million new voters between the ages of 18 and 21 this time. That is 7.4 per cent of all voters and represents a possible winning margin for a candidate. This group is into Facebook and Twitter more than TV or newspapers - 87 per cent of Facebook users log on between six and 20 times a week, with most visiting their pages more than three times a day.

You're not going to get to this group very effectively if you need them to be sitting in the lounge room watching TV. Even if they are in the lounge room and the TV is on, they are probably looking at their phones or tablets.

The world has moved on from negative ads in newspapers and in doing so, the appeal of a party has become more than just the image of the leader. It can now encompass the whole First Family. Look at the massive popularity of Michelle Obama - the first direct descendent of a slave to occupy the White House.

People do have feelings about the family that runs the country and we don't completely separate one family member from the other. Just look at the affection Australians had for Hazel Hawke.

So I did a little poll in the office this week and asked Charlie and Louise what they were really looking for in this election.

Louise said she wanted to see Rudd's feminine side and less of the "fair shake of the sauce bottle" thing.

Charlie is more expansive. He wants Abbott to "eat some sandwiches, wear pants and shirts at all times, stop saying 'axe the tax' and 'stop the boats'."

"He is an intelligent man with a demonstrated concern for families and their welfare ... Let's see the real Tony," he says.

Perhaps the Abbott family needs to get the Liberal think tank to work out how to get their real story across before Therese Rein starts tweeting. That would be double trouble.

Harold Mitchell is an executive director of Aegis.

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