Published Thursday, 13 September 2012
Peter Robinson is the Stormont MLA with the most Twitter followers. (© Pacemaker)
UTV NEWS POLL
Do you think NI politicians should be using social media?
The continued rise of social media is prompting more and more of Stormont's MLAS to take to the Twittersphere, in a bid to engage with their constituents.
According to research by Strategem, the DUP leader is out in front with more than 7,000 people following him on the social networking site.
Mr Robinson's nearest rivals are Sinn Féin MLA for West Tyrone Barry McElduff with 4,664 followers and the SDLP's South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt with 4,626.
When it comes to the number of tweets posted though, it's Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh/South Tyrone Phil Flanagan who leads the charge.
He's posted over 7,000 tweets, followed by Mr McDevitt's 6,181 and Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay's 4,584 tweets.
Overall, 67 of Northern Ireland's 108 Assembly members are now on Twitter.
Used properly, the instant nature of Twitter offers a fresh and personalised glimpse at the daily activity of our elected representatives.
Gráinne Mathews, Stratagem
The SDLP are most active - 93% of their MLAs have accounts, compared with 87% of the UUP, 63% of Alliance, 47% of the DUP and 45% of Sinn Féin.
Twitter, of course, can be a double-edged sword - a useful source of information, but also full of potential pitfalls for users.
The limits of 140 characters in each post can lead to clumsily worded offerings from not just politicians, but other high-profile users from across the world of sport, music, television and beyond.
Many local elected representatives have tried to get to grips with the advantages and opportunities offered by social networking though.
Last March, the Executive became the first legislature in the UK or Ireland to host a 'tweet-up'.
And Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd followed up with another Twitter first in October, when the Department of Education became the first department to hold a live Q & A session on Twitter.
"Social media has become an essential tool for keeping up to date with political events," Stratagem analyst Gráinne Mathews said.
"Whilst there are plenty of 'less than ideal' examples of Twitter use amongst some MLAs, it is good to see so many grasping its potential as an innovative way of communicating with citizens."