Twitter’s head of government, news and social innovation Adam Sharp
As the Australian media and our politicians charge head first towards the September Federal election, Twitter has deployed the man described by The New York Times as “the human embodiment of Twitter” down under.
In his first Australian media interview, Adam Sharp Twitter’s head of government, news and social innovation told Mumbrella that the upcoming election would likely be a significant driver of growth for the social media platform in Australia.
“In the US, France, Korea, Japan and other countries that recently had elections we saw they are a big driver of user interest,” Sharp told Mumbrella.
“I think you will see that here in Australia and in other markets like Germany that have elections this year,” he said.
“We don’t break out usage numbers on a country by country basis but I think we are seeing very healthy growth and we feel very good about Australia as a market.”
Sharp, a former senior US congressional staffer and executive producer of C-SPAN, is the latest of a number of senior Twitter executives to visit Australia as the company moves to establish its Australian office
Charged with working with government and media outlets globally he told Mumbrella that Australia has been leading strongly in terms of social media innovation.
“I lead our government and news team which basically has the ultimate goal of making sure that when people sign up to Twitter the people and things that they are interested in are there to connect, engage and follow.”
“It’s really struck me in just these few days where we’ve met with each of the (TV) networks and each of the parties here in Canberra. There is a real eagerness to use Twitter and use it more effectively,” he said.
“(In Australia) without that name or face to connect the creativity to, through government and media there has been some very impressive work and we are hoping with this visit we can bring some of the ideas that were so effective in the US to bear to make the 2013 election experience that much more engaging for Australians on Twitter.”
Sharp says one of his key achievements since joining Twitter two years ago has been to drive the US government’s engagement with social media.
“When I joined the company, right after the 2010 congressional election, only about a third of the US House and Senate had a Twitter account at all. A few cabinet agencies had accounts but certainly not all,” he said.
“Today 100 per cent of the United States Senate, 94 per cent of the US House and every federal agency have an active presence on Twitter. As do all federal agencies.”
Twitter’s head of government and news says this connection is important in the 21st century for a variety of reasons.
“We often think of Twitter as a global town square in your pocket – it’s an environment where everyone can come together and join the discussion.”
“When we were in Canberra yesterday we were having conversations with people about this notion of scalable retail governance.”
“What I mean by that is this notion that people still want from their government the same things they wanted 100 years ago. That is when they need to talk to government and whether that’s an agency or an MP they want to have the access to do that and to get an answer and the support.”
Sharp says the same demands of retail interaction are also being made of business and media.
“Increasingly an audience that isn’t just interested in what has happened in my world over the last 24 hours but what is happening in my world right now,” he said.
“And they are now empowered to key into that in a very direct way and even ask follow up questions. You see journalists now routinely having that direct conversation with the reader and they often have a follow up questions that maybe the reporter didn’t think of.”
“I think you see increasingly trends of the audience looking to news media to be the advocate in the room.”
“When you have that relationship with that ‘in room’ representation it makes the audience much more invested in the reporting that follows.”
While not commenting on Twitter’s overall usage Australia, estimated at around 2-2.5 million users, Sharp also argues that Twitter’s growth will continue to accelerate.
He points to the company’s growth in just the last two presidential election cycles as an example.
“You compare presidential election to presidential election in 2008 to 2012, for example, there are more tweets in every two days today than had ever been sent in total in the two and half years prior to the 2008 presidential election,” said Sharp.
“Let’s look at it another way if you took every tweet in the world sent in the 24 hour period on election day 2008 it would represent less than six minutes today.”
“And so that sheer volume of conversation presents significant new opportunities for candidates and news organisations.”