Ministers on Twitter, an “imperative” … which carries risks

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When Nicolas Sarkozy was Minister of the Interior, an expression often came up in the mouths of commentators and his opponents: “A news item, a law”. For his successor in Place Beauvau, Gérald Darmanin, it would be more like: “a news item, a tweet”! Since his appointment on July 6, the former Minister of Action and Public Accounts has reacted on Twitter to each news item or event that concerns his new field of expertise. This Sunday again, he denounced on social networks the attack on the Champigny-sur-Marne police station by around forty individuals.

In three months, Gérald Darmanin has also gone from 114,000 to more than 165,000 subscribers. Among his colleagues, only Jean Castex and Eric Dupond-Moretti did “better” over the same period. The Prime Minister, until then “simple” mayor of Prades, has gone from a few thousand to close to 200,000 “followers”. As for the Minister of Justice, he was starting from scratch since he created his Twitter account… the day he took office!

“Essential” to have a Twitter account

All ministers must now be present on the blue bird social network. It is even an “imperative” as regards a tool “which has largely replaced the press release,” said government spokesman Gabriel Attal. “It’s essential,” adds Gaspard Gantzer, former communications advisor to François Hollande between 2014 and 2017. Twitter is mainly used and prized by politicians, journalists and decision-makers. But it allows many messages to be conveyed which are then passed on to the general public.

Today, the vast majority of ministers entrust (at least in part) the mission of tweeting to their teams. Gaspard Gantzer recommends doing it yourself, while asking those around you for advice. “Social networks are media of sincerity. […] We don’t have to spend hours there, but we always find time in travel, the short trip by car, plane, etc. », He believes. “I have always managed all my social media accounts myself, including when I was Secretary of State for Youth. Otherwise it would be seen and felt. Even if of course I ask my team for advice or advice before pressing the button, ”says Gabriel Attal.

Barely more than one tweet a day for Dupond-Moretti

While being on Twitter is an obligation, the activity of members of government varies greatly. Like Gérald Darmanin, Marlène Schiappa is also extremely active with several posts every day (without counting the sharing of messages published by other Internet users). Her entourage boasts “a very political minister who does not hide, and this is one of the few, to use social networks as a space for dialogue where to respond, listen, relay”. “She is very offensive, but sometimes a little thunderous. Which, basically, makes it nice, ”laughs a ministerial adviser.

At the risk of doing too much? In recent days, the Minister Delegate in charge of citizenship has been accused of having reacted too quickly to the targeting, in Strasbourg, of a young woman dressed in a skirt. “What happened in #Strasbourg is unacceptable,” she wrote on September 22, barely a few hours after the first article on this story, which appeared on the site of France Blue. Except that no testimony or video surveillance could corroborate, for the moment, this attack.

“You should never forget to twist your thumb seven times before you tweet. Even if we can afford to do stupid things, because we have to go hard so that a controversy born on social networks remains in the opinion, ”points out Gaspard Gantzer.

Conversely, some are extremely discreet, settling for a maximum of one or two tweets per day on average. This is the case of Eric Dupond-Moretti, who tweeted 112 times in just 95 days.

A mix of genres?

From time to time, they may share more personal content… at the risk of blurring their editorial line. “Rock monument”, reacted this Wednesday the Minister Delegate in charge of Transport (and fan of the Olympique de Marseille), Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, to pay tribute to guitarist Eddie Van Halen, whose title “Jump” became the unofficial anthem of the Marseille club.

Bruno Le Maire also alternates personal messages, such as when he congratulates the senior official Odile Renaud-Basso on an appointment this Thursday, with the more institutional tweets that he often delegates to his teams. “He’s a very free person. When he tweeted a tribute to Patrick Devedjian, he did not call me to find out if he had the right, ”slips one of his relatives who takes care of his communication.

In the galaxy of social networks to express yourself when you are a minister, if Twitter is systematically used, it is not the only one chosen. Eric Dupond-Moretti also seems more comfortable on Facebook. The September 28, then the October 3, the Minister of Justice posted on Facebook a video of about ten minutes on a specific theme (in this case, filmed justice and the budget, then separatism). “I would like to establish with you this privileged, direct, unfiltered link so that I can explain to you what we do at the Ministry of Justice”, he said during this “first”, promising to renew the experience regularly.

Eric Dupond-Moretti in video on Facebook, September 28, 2020. Screenshot
Eric Dupond-Moretti in video on Facebook, September 28, 2020. Screenshot

“I discuss with the other ministers especially their presence in traditional media, especially as they almost all have an advisor in charge of communication on social networks. Some people still told me about my new question-and-answer session on Instagram. [une application de partage de photos, NDLR], on which I am focusing much more, because it makes it possible to reach other categories of the population, ”says Gabriel Attal.

Bruno Le Maire was also noticed for some photos posted on his Instagram account, with a profile that is always very neat and … very commented. A member of his entourage has fun: “He has been on Instagram a lot, because he loves photography and he can enjoy it. But I discovered his pictures afterwards! “

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