The design of a politician’s Twitter profile

Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach has been coming in for some heavy criticism today on Twitter (his account is here) for his statements about Danish aid to Egypt. As a result I looked at his Twitter profile for the first time for some months and it’s quite awful. But Friis Bach is not the only one – many politicians’ Twitter profiles leave a lot of room for improvement. So here’s a guide as to what should go where, and what’s important and less vital, using Friis Bach’s account as an example.

friisbachtwitter

Click the image to see the full resolution version.

It is also worth noting that all of the aspects below, including the Username, can be changed in Twitter even after an account has been created. Log in at twitter.com and choose ‘Settings’ under the cog icon at the top right of the screen.

Photo (very important): in the busy world of Twitter, your photo (or avatar) is what defines you. Regular users scan their Twitter feed knowing who has written what thanks to familiarity with a picture alone, without having to read a Name or Username. Here Friis Bach does OK – his picture is a clear (if uninspiring) mug shot.

Name (important): not as obvious as it sounds, because this is often confused with the Twitter Username. Put your real name in here – it is important to allow people to find you on Twitter, and extra important if your Username is not your full, real name. Here Friis Bach is good – he puts his full, real name.

Username (very important): this is how a user is referenced on Twitter. While some odd name or nickname might make sense to you as an individual, does it make sense to your followers? Having said that, a short username helps (it uses less of the 140 characters if you are referenced). Here Friis Bach does OK – his username is a shorter version of his real name.

Bio (important): a description of what you do, and who you are, in 160 characters or less. Potential followers will make a judgment as to whether to follow you based on what you put here, and the language in which it is written. Here Friis Bach falls down – his biography is in Danish, and is extremely brief, and most of his tweets are in English. Further, for a politician who is also a minister as Friis Bach is, here some statement about whether the account is an official one from the Ministry (or not) can be added. Links, hashtags and other Twitter usernames can also be added in here, but are not central or vital.

Location (not especially important): where is a user based most of the time? This can be used to show where a politician spends most of their time, so København and Nordjylland in the case of Friis Bach.

Website (reasonably important): should be read together with the Bio to determine how official a politician’s Twitter profile is. Here Friis Bach creates uncertainty – in his Bio he prioritises his work as a Minister, while the link is to his personal party-political website. Consistency is needed between the two.

Header (reasonably important): a way to give a better and more visual impression of a person than is possible from the Photo. This Header also now appears in some Twitter apps. Here Friis Bach’s picture is a pleasant image, but his Photo obscures his own face in it – better cropping would have been desirable.

Background colour / Link colour / Background image (not especially important): further ways to make a profile match either a party political, or governmental role for a politician. In Friis Bach’s case, magenta should be used if this is a party political account, or deeper blues if it is for his Foreign Ministry role. He goes for neither, just sticking to the default colours and background image, which gives his profile and unprofessional look.

So there is the guide to improving the design of a politician’s Twitter profile. It should take no more than 10 minutes of work to get all of these things in order, and if the first impression determines whether someone follows or not, then it’s high time more politicians paid attention to these things!

[UPDATE 16.8.13, 1130]
Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, asked me on Twitter what I think of his Twitter profile. Apart from a Photo that’s a bit too zoomed out, I think he just about nails it – full profile here.

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