Weber Shandwick study: Twitter is important for politicians, but not for connecting with citizens

Today we bring you a guest post by Weber Shandwick Netherlands on how politicians interact with citizens on social media.

Social media has changed the way politics, citizens and journalists interact. Before, traditional media determined what news citizens read and how critical questions of citizens got translated to politicians. Today, social media stimulate interaction and provide citizens with the means to look for their own news and engage in political debate. Weber Shandwick Netherlands explored this new relation.


The Weber Shandwick study ‘Twitter and Dutch politics’ examines the way Dutch MPs and political journalists perceive their usage of Twitter. Twitter currently is the main social media platform for political debate in The Netherlands. A lot of users on Twitter are ‘political junkies’ and have an above average interest in politics. Moreover, 139 of the 150 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Netherlands, have a Twitter account and tweet about their political views. In The Netherlands the platform is immensely popular, with almost 4 million users (out of a total population of 17 million).


The results were derived from an extensive questionnaire among almost half of the Dutch MPs and one hundred political journalists.

The main conclusions are:

  • Twitter is the most important social media platform: 86% of all MPs interviewed stated that Twitter was the most important social media platform for their daily work, with 81.6% of journalists also rating Twitter as their number one.  It is striking that ‘new’ platforms, such as Instagram, are barely used by politicians, even though they would be a good means for them to address a younger group of voters.

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  • The impact of Twitter on political debates: 60% of daily Twitter users in the Lower House indicate that they use the platform to help them prepare for a political debate.

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  • Journalists and MPs principally follow one another: neither journalists nor MPs tend to follow ‘ordinary’ citizens.  Despite this, a large number of MPs find Twitter a valuable tool to engage citizens in conversation (44%).

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  • Trending topics, but not in The Hague: barely any of the MPs interviewed follow trending topics.  There is an equally poor following amongst journalists, with only two out of ten of them using Twitter to follow trending topics.  There seems, therefore, to be a discrepancy between the interests of citizens on Twitter and those of either politicians or political journalists.

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Time for MPs to connect with citizens

MPs and political journalists seem to have moved their offline behavior online. They only follow each other and seem to ignore citizens and their interests (trending topics). At the same the political debate is stuck on social media platforms, such as Twitter, while citizens are moving on to ‘newer’ platforms, such as Instagram and GovFaces.

If MPs and political journalists want to connect with citizens and voters, they have to get out of their routine social media behavior. It is time to actually explore platforms where voters are moving to have meaningful connections and discussions.



With offices in 81 countries, Weber Shandwick is one of the world’s leading consulting firms for Public Affairs, Public Relations and Communications Management.

The Public Affairs team combines a thorough knowledge of its sector with extensive political knowledge. Digital media has also become an integral part of our public affairs programs.  In order to best advise businesses and organizations, Weber Shandwick researches the way in which politics and society are linked.

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