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Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams Blog

Rudd uses social media to steal the polls

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The election story breaks each day with new excitement and the addictive qualities of a bad reality TV soap opera. Yesterday it was the Bold and the Beautiful, today it is the Day Of Our Lives, tomorrow we could be looking at the Biggest Loser. But nowhere is the story unfolding more evidently than on Twitter. Take a look at the Twittersphere to see the effect of social media on polls and sentiment after yesterday's disaster poll for Labor. Feel like a say? Join in with 147 characters or less.

Although we have yet to see #KruddMP signal he may "do unto another as he had done to him" back in 2010 when Gillard ousted him from the Labor leadership, Rudd's Tweets this last 12 months are indicative of where he is going over the next six. His personal brand is on the rise, and as Julia Gillard loses ground in the polls, his success is palpable.

Rudd uses Twitter to build rapport in a ‘good all round blokey’ kind of way. He is doing everything to break his stereotype as a leader who was previously thought of as arrogant, remote and a micro manager. And he's doing it with some success: the old Rudd is near forgotten and the ‘new Rudd’ on Twitter is sanguine, endearing and funny. His personal brand is being carefully crafted into a warmer, more "real" version of himself.

It can fell a bit like history is repeating itself. In 2007, when Rudd won the election from Howard in a "me too" campaign run by advertising guru Neil Laurence with Kevin ’07, the campaign was so "Liberal like" in its composition that even Rudd’s own followers accused him of lacking in "real" Labor values. Rudd’s policies were so closely aligned to the Liberal agenda he was almost seen as a Howard Mini Me. It was a clever campaign that encouraged the public to believe he was going to be a younger, more dynamic Howard. As he was reported to say at the time, "I am going to play on John Howards mind".

Wind forward six years and Rudd must surely be playing on Gillard’s mind today, and nowwhere is this more visible than on Twitter. While other politicians are behind the eight ball, up bounces Rudd on Twitter wherever Gillard is. Except while her Tweets - sitting at approx. 1620 to date - are almost solely focussed on her political campaign (and lacking in any personality and humanity), Rudd is warmer, considerate and yep, well plain likeable.

Rudd has the most Twitter followers of any politician in Australia - some 1.19 million - nearly as many followers as the rest of the federal politicians on Twitter combined. He Tweets as many as four times a day and has keyed 7,597 messages since the account was opened. He uses Twitter strategically and cleverly – conversing with followers directly, building relationships and answering questions with candid humour. While politicians are using Twitter like never before, Craig Emerson @CraigEmersonMP is openly defensive and aggressive, Julie Bishop @JulieBishopMP is charming and conservative and Tony Abbott @TonyAbottMHP is positive and family based, Rudd has it to a fine art.

What is resounding is that Twitter has now taken a firm place as one of the most primary tools for building personal, product, service, cause related or company brands. Rudd is proving that Twitter is now a strategic communications tool and has its place in any modern communications campaign. For #KruddMP, combined with his regular media and broadcast appearances, Twitter is being used strategically for a much bigger end game. And as the politician second in line for the Labor leadership he uses Twitter to drive public sentiment at a time when Julia Gillard is at daily risk of being ousted by her own party.

We can fully expect a change of government shortly – just a shame we have to spend the next few months in an unsettled climate created on purpose by one of the longest election campaign in history. Watch this space.

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