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Twitter, the essential network for politicians and their communication strategy?

“A chao, good evening”. He could have tweeted this way on Sunday when he announced his defeat in the first round of the legislative elections in the 5th constituency of French people living abroad. Manuel Valls chose a much more poignant message, followed by a most revealing gesture: he closed his Twitter account, a few minutes after posting a short farewell text. “I take note of the results (…) If dissent and division have sown confusion, I cannot ignore my score and the fact that my candidacy did not convince”. Before adding: “It is up to me lucidly to draw the consequences. Life is good enough to quietly turn the pages.

Provocative and capricious? “I think this very theatrical goodbye has been carefully thought out, weighs Emmanuelle Patry, founder of Social Media Lab and social network specialist. There is a staged side for sure, but Manuel Valls has been in trouble on the political front for several years and this is his way of drawing a line. His decision is not surprising. Neither does the form of the message when you know the character and the love/hate relationship he has maintained for years with Twitter.

Twitter, the place to be ?

The social network also appears to be an essential means of communication for today’s candidates. But to what extent does the influence of politicians pass through this medium? “Twitter is an open, influential network where you can communicate with all citizens and also with the press. It has taken up a lot of space in the political landscape, it is widely used by journalists and institutions, but also by people who are politically engaged, or who at least learn about current events, analyzes Emmanuelle Patry, also specialized in social media analysis and strategy. The community of people present and active on Twitter has greatly expanded. »

Long reputed to be a microcosm where self-esteem reigned, “Twitter has a much more diverse audience of users, even if it is still the preferred place for exchanges for young urbanites,” adds Emmanuelle Patry. Since it’s mostly text-based and totally open, it’s easy to build virality quickly. The form of Twitter makes it easier for politicians to gain influence”.

Why do Twitter and politicians match so well?

Today, to appear on the national political scene, having a Twitter account, if possible certified, is essential. But not only, specifies the expert of the social networks. “If a politician has an account without being active, apart from avoiding fake accounts and usurpers, it is not much use. Moreover, today, professional politicians often have a dedicated team that manages their different profiles. This presence is totally part of their strategy of influence, of their way of communicating. Each candidate becomes his own media thanks to social networks. »

By dropping the term “agora”, Emmanuelle Patry sums up Twitter’s role in the communication strategy of politicians today: “the online public space where everyone can freely express their ideas”, especially those who dream of a position of power in the media hierarchy. For Manuel Valls, his withdrawal from Twitter is an allegory of his pause, temporary or definitive, no one knows, from political life.

And as during the muscular exchanges between sports journalists and clubs or coaches, Twitter is also the scene of ping-pong controversy between politicians and the world of the media. “A few years ago, remembers Emmanuelle Patry, the journalists of the Lab of Europe 1 played this role of itchy hair in 140 signs with political figures of the French national scene”.

What’s next?

Twitter also allowed Manuel Valls, according to Emmanuelle Patry, to put an end to “online harassment, a phenomenon that he had to suffer particularly in recent days during this legislative campaign. It is difficult to realize the number of hateful and defamatory messages received, but, Valérie Pécresse can testify to it, it is a bad side of Twitter, with which it is healthy to end “.

In a last burst of ego in which his departure from Twitter made almost more noise than his not so unexpected defeat in the legislative elections, the former Prime Minister joined the very closed circle of politicians who left Twitter. Among the most famous, we can cite Patrick Balkany or Jérôme Cahuzac, two national political figures who no longer really have their names in the news, except in the justice section. No possibility of going back?

Maybe someday ?

If Manuel Valls were to one day return to the national political scene (yes, yes he wouldn’t be the first to say “no” then “why not?” and “OK, you need me, I’m coming”!), could he do it without reactivating his Twitter account? For Emmanuelle Patry, “it seems unlikely today. It is truly an unavoidable space for political expression”. As she recalls, only Donald Trump, “against his will of course”, is active but no longer has a Twitter account.

She also recalls that the White House has never hidden, that a tweet could replace a press release and this, for several years: “we know that the United States is often ahead of Europe on those subjects. I think this phenomenon can now be applied to France”. So“Goodbye Twitter” is the new “I take full responsibility for this failure and I draw the conclusions by withdrawing from political life” of April 21, 2002, 20 years after Lionel Jospin, in a tweet on a smartphone rather than in front of microphones and cameras. Until the return of the former Prime Minister to the front of the stage?

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