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5 May 2010updated 01 Jul 2021 12:14pm

How many twits make a tw*t?

Conservatives forge ahead on Twitter.

By Jason Stamper

David Cameron may once have poked fun at the social networking site Twitter when he said in a radio interview, “Too many twits make a tw*t”, but yesterday the Conservative Party took a rather different line on the power of the tweet as it announced it had amassed just over 30,000 “followers” on its microsite.

“Thank you for your support — we have now reached 30,000 followers,” the Tories tweeted. Indeed, the Conservatives appear to have out-tweeted their rivals: the Labour Party has just over 16,268 followers and the Lib Dems have 19,360.

While no one is suggesting that voters will consider a party’s following on Twitter when casting their vote, all the parties are only too aware of the importance of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The Labour Party was understandably chuffed, for instance, that Gordon Brown’s speech to Citizens UK became the most viewed video on YouTube in the UK today.

Yet a recent survey of 1,000 respondents by the social media consultants Lewis Communications found a bit of a mixed bag when it came to people’s attitudes to social networking and politics. Fifty-six per cent of the sample had visited political websites, and 24 per cent thought Twitter an essential communication tool in a democracy. But while 27 per cent would be encouraged to vote for an MP if contacted by one on social networking sites, 48 per cent would not.

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As for the all-important question of fundraising, 30 per cent said they would go online if they wanted to donate cash, while only 12 per cent said they would prefer to donate over the phone. Little surprise that the Conservative Party has been busily tweeting messages like this one: “Over 70% of Labour’s donations comes from the unions — as we raise a record amount from small donations. Donate now.”

In other politics-meets-social-networking-news, one company has gone to the trouble of ranking the main parties’ political websites not by their impact, depth or even style — but by how quickly the pages load. Keynote Systems, which does website performance tuning and the like, has been measuring the responsiveness and reliability of the key political parties’ websites in the run-up to the election.

It found the Lib Dems are out in front with a load time of 0.93 seconds, with the Green Party on 1.12 seconds, the Tories on 1.99 seconds and Labour trailing way behind at 6.42 seconds.

Naturally, high traffic rates can slow websites down as the computers behind the scenes struggle to meet demand, so you might read into these figures that Labour is simply getting the most visitor traffic to its site. Then again, you might not.

Jason Stamper is NS technology correspondent and editor of Computer Business Review.

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