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Pre-election social faux pas: @CanberraLibs break 264-day Twitter silence

After 264 days of silence, the Canberra Liberals have re-engaged their official Twitter account 166 days out from the territory election, attracting flak from online users. 

On seeing the party's abrupt revival of the stale social media account, one user quipped: "You guys remembered that password." More critical comments read: "Staff remember to engage the community … just as an election is around the corner. Pathetic as usual."

Charles Sturt University social media expert Professor Lisa Given said the days were gone when politicians could "put their heads in the sand" about social media. 

To remain relevant she said parties and politicians needed to be genuinely digitally engaged. 

"These platforms are not going anywhere," she said. "They are becoming more popular but also more important to citizens and voters as a way to directly engage with their politicians."

The @CanberraLibs account has 1144 followers and, while ACT Liberal MLA's have a combined Twitter audience of 9833 through individual accounts, their use of these varies widely. 

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Members for Brindabella Brendan Smyth and Andrew Wall MLA had not tweeted since November 12, 2015, and September 2, 2015, respectively. 

The @CanberraLibs tweet that broke the long silence on May 3 linked users to a press release about a plan to duplicate Horse Park Drive. 

Professor Given said Twitter was not merely an information pushing platform. Effective use that followers recognised as authentic involved regular tweeting and a willingness to be responsive to a two-way dialogue. 

"When people are most successful on Twitter is when, even in the downtime, you're still engaging, using it as a mechanism to talk to the community, show them what you're doing and ask for their feedback," she said. 

"That's what is going to lead people to feel it's an authentic relationship." 

N2N Communications social strategist Lewis Shields, who had corporate and government clients including Airbnb, Uber, Commonwealth Bank, DFAT, Smartraveller and the Australian Taxation Office, agreed consistency was vital to building credibility.

His advice on re-engaging a dormant account was to seek out rather than push out content in a brand-centric manner.

"Understanding the parameters you have to work within and making a considered decision about how you react to those social media assets is the most critical factor in being successful when you do re-start it," he said.

"There's a value in being consistent and being human in coming back to the party. One of the ways you can do that is not focusing on your own content too much. It's actually coming back into social media in a meaningful way that warrants the renewed investment in time." 

In March, it was revealed the ACT Liberal candidates for October's ACT election would sign over control of their social media accounts to the party's campaign bosses and follow instructions to remove any controversial posts.

Liberals campaign manager Simeon Duncan wouldn't respond to questions about the organisation's social media policy or online users' views that the party was out of touch or Twitter shy. 

He said in a statement: "The Canberra Liberals account was reactivated on the pre-selection of candidates for the ACT and federal elections.

"We recognise that, as voters make their minds up concerning who they trust to govern in the best interests of Canberrans, they will seek out information from a variety of sources: friends, family, 'traditional' media and 'new' media. We hope that by sharing information of relevance to them, we can make that task a little bit easier for them."