Interview : Jo Swinson – MP for East Dunbartonshire (part one)

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joSwinsonJo Swinson is is an MP for East Dunbartonshire. She was elected in 2005 and is the youngest MP in the House of Commons (or was at the time of interview!) Jo has a huge CV of achievements both pre and post-election so to read more about her take a peek at her website or follow her on Twitter @joswinson.

Did you know, she was one of the first MP’s to start using Twitter? In fact, according to her Twitter account it seems our interview request was answered from India!

We are interested to hear what Jo Swinson has to say about social networking for several reasons:

  1. She’s using the Internet and social media to raise her profile (a woman after our own heart!)
  2. She’s a ‘Greenie’ too (You may remember our very modest mention of winning the BT Entrepreneurs award for Most Environmentally Aware Business!)
  3. She’s in our age group and so instantly seems more accessible to us and is obviously more open to new technologies.

We quizzed Jo on both social networking and her website so here is part one and part two will be tomorrow.


Social Networking:

As you have a background in Marketing and experience of working in the media industry, do you think this made it easier for you to realise the importance of an on-line profile?

Probably, though I think that because I use online media myself, I understand how important it is to people who do.  If I need to find something out, my first port of call is Google, and I’m sure the same is true of lots of people –  so being active online is a no-brainer.

How do you think this profile has helped you? For example, do you feel it gives you a more open and upfront persona resulting in a greater feeling of trust and approachability?

One of the key objectives I have is for my constituents to find me approachable, as I think lots of people feel very removed from their MP.  I want people to feel free to get in touch, as that two-way communication helps me represent my constituents better.  My online presence definitely helps with this; people have got in touch through Facebook or Twitter who would probably never have come along to my advice surgery.

Three-quarters of surfers aged 18 to 24 use Social Networking sites, compared with just 7% of users aged 65 and older. Do you see social networking as a way to reach the younger voters or as a way to reach voters in general?

Social networking probably reaches disproportionately younger voters, but then local newspapers probably reach disproportionately older voters.  It’s important to cover all bases.  However what starts off in the younger generation soon spreads, and many of my Facebook friends or Twitter followers are in their 40s or 50s.

Are you gaining as much interaction through your social networking presences as you had hoped?

It’s a good level of interaction, though I can imagine that it could become overwhelming.  I suppose if it increases hugely then I’d just have to resign myself to responding to fewer @replies and Facebook comments.  The one thing social media is not great at yet though, is being targeted at constituents.  It’s often hard to tell if someone is local or not.

Have you seen a shift in how constituents are contacting you as your on-line profile increases? Are you more likely to receive an email or Twit than a visitor in a surgery?

I’ve always been more likely to receive an email than a surgery visit – more than half of my casework has come in by email since I was first elected 4 years ago.  The numbers at surgeries are small, but they are often the more complex cases that require a face-to-face meeting.  As more constituents sign up to social networking sites, I’m getting more contact from them that way.

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