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Politicians are (slowly) taking to Instagram - and showing different sides

A cooking show next for the Education Minister perhaps as he showcases his skills?

EARLIER THIS MONTH, Education Minister Richard Bruton took a leap into the social media world by signing up to Instagram.

Like many other politicians, he is already on Twitter, but he’s one of the few ministers posting photos to Instagram.

Bruton announced his debut on the platform with a “drumroll”, sharing his first photo of a recent visit to a primary school with his fellow minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

“I’m starting an Instagram page to share some of my work and personal passions. Follow me for food, music and of course updates on Education and my work in the Dáil,” he commented under the picture.

The next few photos he posted hint at one of his passions: Cooking.

First though, he was showing off his baking skills.

“Prepping for Valentine’s Day,” he said, with the #husbandoftheyear hashtag subtly placed underneath a photo of what are, frankly, some impressive looking scones.

Next, it was a 15-minute pasta meal for a Friday.

So, after politics, is the ‘Cooking with Richard’ show going to be aired on RTÉ or TV3? asked the minister what the deal is with all the foodie pics.

“Cooking for family and friends is a hobby of mine, I particularly enjoy making curries and experimenting with different spices and cuisines,” said Bruton.

So, expect more of where that came from.

But why bother?

Senior consultant with the Communications Clinic Lorcan Nyhan said politicians should have a plan as to what they want to achieve if they sign up to platforms such as Instagram.

“Why Richard Bruton is using it particularly well is he is showing that he is a real person. He is showing his interests, showing personality, or a personality he wants people to see,” he said.

“On Facebook and Twitter, politicians tend to post things like photos of them out canvassing or at local events. These tend to get likes from their own friends or followers, but they’re not very engaging,” said Nyhan, who explained that no one really uses Instagram for news, therefore the messages there have to be tailored.

Instagram is about showing a bit of personality. Perhaps people have a certain view of you as a politician, so Richard Bruton might be seen as very serious. So, he is showing a different side to himself.

Like Facebook, Instagram also allows you to target your audience, so if a politician wants to speak to a certain cohort of people, be it the younger voter, or those interested in certain hobbies, this is achievable using the platform.

“Politicians should be using Instagram, but they should be using it right,” said Nyhan.

But, he’s not the only one from the Cabinet taking to Instagram.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, never shy of a good selfie, also uses the platform, though his cooking game is nowhere near that of his Education Minister’s.

Here he is earlier this month, planning out his week with his staff:

Arts Minister Josepha Madigan is also an avid user. Just this week she shared a photo of her very cute dog, urging people to take care of their animals during the snowstorm.

Other ministers have left their accounts lie dormant for some time, such as Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone and Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Zappone shared this great photo of the taking part in the mini-marathon, with her late partner Ann-Louise.

While Simon Coveney also hasn’t shared any of the personal sides of his life on Instagram in some time, he did share this enjoyable video from 2014.

And let’s not forget Enda Kenny. While he was in Office, he shared pics of his day quite regularly. This shot from around the 2016 general election was taken outside Government Buildings, where the former Taoiseach met young Cathal outside enjoing the sun.

Encouraging politicians online

Fine Gael is constantly encouraging TDs and senators to take their messages to different mediums, one source told, who said they are told to treat each one separately, and cater the message to each.

For example, what Bruton posts on Twitter should not be what he shares on Instagram.

Fine Gael press office routinely has digital and social media training sessions for parliamentary party member and their staff.

“It’s absolutely fantastic advice to skill up on all platforms,” said one TD.

The party has been trying to up its game on social media for the last two years, ever since it issued a social media guide for members.

The guide urged politicians to be “authentic” and not to be afraid of being themselves when using Facebook and Twitter.

Fianna Fáil followed by featuring advice in the party’s Ard Fheis agenda last year. It urged members to fight the party’s corner online, stating:

“Social media is also a good way to interact with national and local media broadcast programmes – if you see or hear bias or feel that the Fianna Fáil point of view is going unheard, tell them.”

So, what next for politicians and social media? Snapchat? Well, Gerry Adams is already a fan. For now, Bruton is bringing his A game cooking skills to Instagram, and many others need to up the efforts.

After all, there is probably a general election just around the corner.

Read: France’s Marine Le Pen charged over Islamic State tweets

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