The Leader of the Federal Opposition in Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, has been on the social networking platform Twitter for about a month now, as far as I can see. That’s the real Malcolm Turnbull, who has to go by the Twitter handle of @TurnbullMalcolm on Twitter, because someone else had already taken the Twitter handle MalcolmTurnbull. Now the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has joined in, with the handle @KevinRuddPM on Twitter – yes there is a fake KevinRudd too.

I’m following both of the real ones and they have reciprocated.

At least I think they have reciprocated. It could well be that each of them has a staff member or three managing the process. Time, I believe, will tell.

My guess, from “twits” I’ve been reading and from my own perception, is that the real Malcolm Turnbull is dealing directly with his tweets and someone on the Prime Minister’s staff is dealing with his. I’m open to being corrected on either count.

But still, it’s kind of nice to dream that the Prime Minister of my country might just have taken a few seconds out of his busy day to connect with me directly.

G’day Des, as it were 🙂

Twitter message from @KevinRuddPM

But even if it is, as I suspect, a member of Malcolm Turnbull’s or the PM’s staff – or maybe even robots organised by those offices – messaging me via Twitter, I like the idea that people influential in the offices of both the chief minister in the land and the leader of the alternative government, maybe even the principal players themelves, believe this sort of social networking is sufficiently important for the business of government and the highest level of politics for the respective office-holders to be, in some fashion, participants.

Maybe not fully engaged players, but at least what you might call involved spectators of the passing parade.

I much prefer this to the alternative.

And who knows, perhaps I’m too sceptical. Maybe late tonight, wherever each of our protagonists is in this vast land (I think they are both in the country) they will be crouched over their laptops, eagerly checking on the latest tweets and firing off their own, personally crafted 140 character bon mots!

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, via the internets – via Twitter.

And I almost forgot. @BarackObama is following me on Twitter –  with only 132,006 others. And I don’t even have a vote there. But at least he got his own name.

Update: I had no sooner posted this than I noticed on Twitter a message that I had lost my new Twitter friend @KevinRuddPM. But not I alone – suddenly it appeared he was not following anyone.

@KevinRuddPM following no one

I say “apparently”. There are a couple of people suggesting it’s a misunderstanding and a Twitter failure, not a deliberate “unfollow” by the PM.

I’m finding this whole story a fascinating case study on the challenges faced by politicians in the social networking space. They can’t, in my opinion, afford to stay aloof. But where is the manual for when they hop in and things don’t go perfectly? Whatever “perfectly” might mean.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).