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August 25, 2009updated 19 Aug 2016 10:06am

Labour’s ‘Twitter tsar’ in sense of humour failure shock?

After a satirical blog I wrote asking whether the magician Paul Daniels would make a better 'Twitter tsar' than Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, I receieved the following short shrift from McCarthy herself in a reply to me on Twitter:(a) the party is not

By Jason Stamper Blog

After a satirical blog I wrote asking whether the magician Paul Daniels would make a better ‘Twitter tsar’ than Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, I receieved the following short shrift from McCarthy herself in a reply to me on Twitter:

(a) the party is not calling me that, (b) it’s Bristol East, (c) look at % of replies not just tweets – that’s what counts.

Obviously I have now corrected the fact I had said she was MP for Bristol West, rather than Bristol East. Mea culpa.

As for her point (b) — “the party is not calling me that” — I concur. I understand they are calling McCarthy their ‘New Media Campaigns Spokesperson’. However I think my use of ‘Twitter tsar’ can be forgiven, since her own office is calling her that. This from her own Parliamentary web page:

Kerry becomes Labour’s New Media Campaign Spokesperson – 17 Aug 2009 –

The Labour Party have announced that Kerry will be the “Twitter tsar” with the responsibility of encouraging MPs to use new media.

Finally we come to McCarthy’s point (c) – isn’t it uncanny how politicians always seem to make three points about anything? OK, so McCarthy says the @replies (people replying to your tweets with tweets of their own) are a more important measure than followers.

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McCarthy may be right — @replies can be a sign that people aren’t only reading your tweets, they’re often a sign that they are responding to them too. But she may be wrong, because @replies aren’t necessarily replies at all, but simply people trying to get the attention of that Twitter user.

So there’s an awful lot of @reply ‘noise’ out there, as people make their various points or simply try and send a message to a user. You can guess how many @replies certain celebrities are sent, not because they have written a tweet that people are responding to, but just because they are trying to get that person’s attention. Let’s not even begin to talk about @reply spammers.

In the case of an MP using Twitter, there is also the fact that constituents use Twitter to complain about all sorts of things going on in their constituency, or try and garner some publicity for a local event. Does receiving lots of @reply complaints or advertisements make one an influential Twitter user?

Kerry McCarthy.jpg

Kerry McCarthy MP: Labour’s New Media Campaigns Spokesperson, a.k.a. ‘Twitter tsar’.

Suffice to say @replies are not a scientific measure of the extent of a user’s Twitter influence any more than the number of followers as a percent of total tweets. As ‘Twitter tsar’, or at least New Media Campaigns Spokesperson, McCarthy is surely aware of this.

Besides I’m not sure (I could be mistaken) if it’s possible for anyone other than the Twitter user themself to count up their total @replies very easily. If you are not that user, you can do a search for their Twitter account name, such as @KerryMP, and start counting. But since it displays only 20 per page, you’re in for a long session of clicking ‘more’ to count the next 20, and so on.

McCarthy didn’t seem to realise that I was being flippant when I asked whether Paul Daniels would make a better ‘Twitter tsar’ than she. But let’s stick with the Paul Daniels comparison for the time being. McCarthy has had 20 @replies in the last 20 hours. Daniels had 20 @replies in the last 13 hours, which suggests that Paul Daniels is replied to more often than Kerry McCarthy (caveat: I didn’t say it was that scientific, did I?)

So I’m very sorry Kerry, but:

(a) my original blog was what’s known as ‘satire’, (b) your own office calls you “Twitter tsar”, and (c) Paul Daniels gets more @replies than you as a percentage of tweets. So there.

In my view one of the prerequisites of a true ‘Twitter tsar’ is the art of the witty riposte. So come on Kerry, I know you can do better than simply a, b, c.


Kerry McCarthy gamely got back in touch to tell me, “Next time – make it funnier!” A fair cop. She also tweeted that, “At the risk of being accused of another sense of humour failure, u missed my point – I meant my replies not ppl replying to me.”

Another fair point, though replies by a user count as normal tweets, taking us perhaps back to the metric between the number of followers as a percentage of total tweets. And as I’ve mentioned, Paul Daniels still has the lead there.

I guess one could split out replies from other tweets, and then come up with another metric based on replies as a percentage of total tweets. I’ve not got time today (a job for a rainy day methinks) but that will give you an idea of how responsive the Twitter user is, rather than be a metric of Twitter influence in its own right. So I’m still not ruling Paul Daniels out of the running for ‘Twitter tsar’ just yet!

I also notice that McCarthy has got her team to revise the document I quoted from above, in which her own team called her a “twitter tsar”. The line,

“The Labour Party have announced that Kerry will be the “Twitter tsar” with the responsibility of encouraging MPs to use new media.”

now reads:

“The Labour Party have announced that Kerry will be their New Media Campaigns Spokesperson with the responsibility of encouraging MPs and others to use new media as a form of direct engagement with voters.”

Near the bottom of the release, this paragraph has now been added too:

“The appointment, which has led to Kerry being dubbed ‘the “Twitter tsar”, comes following the recent study conducted by the Independent newspaper which declared Kerry the most influential politician on Twitter.”

So that’s cleared that up.

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