By Daniel Hunter

Members of Parliament need to drastically improve their social media skills to tackle apathy and re-engage the public interest in politics, a new report from UK think tank Parliament Street has revealed.

The 6,000 word report examined how MPs interact with voters via Twitter, investigating the type of content and frequency of tweets published, measuring against the number of followers.

Parliament Street’s research, conducted by Yatterbox, found that whilst the average number of followers for all MPs was just under 4,000, for the top ten MPs it was close to 23,000. Even without avid tweeter Tom Watson, the average top nine is over 15,000.

Some of the leading politicians, including Tessa Jowell, tweet 40 times per day on average. But other MPs are less enthusiastic, with many not even bothering to post a profile photo, highlighting a distinct lack interest to interact with the public.

Another key finding of the report was that several backbench MPs have cultivated a strong Twitter presence due to regular and insightful engagement with voters. This is contrasted against other high profile MPs such as former Cabinet Minister Jack Straw who is well known to the public, yet has a small number of followers compared with his high media profile.

“Whilst it’s clear that certain MPs are maximising social media channels to engage with voters, many still have a long way to go before they achieve the status of becoming social media savvy politicians," said Steven George-Hilley, Director of Technology and Enterprise, Parliament Street.

"Simply signing up to Twitter and Facebook is not enough, these channels need to be frequently updated to provide the public with accountability and insight into the role of an MP. Breaking down the barriers between the Westminster bubble and the electorate should be a top priority for all MPs and improving their social media skills is a key step towards achieving this."

Key findings and recommendations of the report:

· MPs who have a powerful personality, and a powerful ability to represent their constituents and to hold the executive and prominent figures to account go a long way to making people look for them on Twitter
· Asking other Twitter users to sign up to petitions is possible via Twitter. Offering links and a brief description allows users to understand quickly what is going on and feel empowered by your feed. All obvious marks of a good politician
· The best tweeters all mix politics and ordinary life. There is a real tendency not to obsess about politics and make it the be-all-or-end-all and a healthy interest in other topics. This all helped create a ‘normal’ image, a good example being Tom Harris who changed his background to the TARDIS from Doctor Who!

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