Matt wanted to establish a new form of direct, digital democracy to make it easier for the general public in his constituency to communicate with the person who represents their interests in parliament. And he wanted to do all of this via a simple, interactive smartphone app.
Three months after the app launch, our Customer Success team caught up with Matt to see how things were going. We wanted to know whether his constituency app was working in the way he’d hoped, helping him establish a deeper, more direct connection with his constituents.
So, rather than us telling you the story so far, how about we hear all about it from Matt himself…
Q. So, Matt, how does the app offer a different approach to hearing from your constituents than traditional communication methods like emails, letters and visits?
A. With so many people using a smartphone nowadays, the app offers a convenient and immediate way to stay in touch with constituents. Constituents don’t have to look up my email address, write a letter or liaise with my office to find a mutually suitable time for a surgery appointment. The app seemed like a more modern and efficient way to hear from my constituents.
Q. In your view, what are the main benefits of an MP having their own app for their constituency?
A. The most obvious benefit is that the purity and focus of the app. It’s all about engaging with my constituents as an MP. I’m committed to helping us all behave better online, and the app allows me to set the tone of the discussion. I don’t mind jokes at my expense, or fair, thoughtful debate, but extreme rudeness and bad language isn’t right and shouldn’t be tolerated. I’m not able to control that on other social media platforms.
Q. How does the app compare to your other social media channels?
A. I hope the app feels more personal. When members are on it, they’re not battling through a social feed of different voices – they’re getting news about the work that I have been doing for my constituents and how I have been representing their interests. I occasionally run polls in the app so I can get members’ views on an issue. My constituents’ opinions are so incredibly helpful to me in my work as a local MP.
We have a steady stream of new members coming on board all the time, more so than some other social media channels in which take-up and engagement seems to be slowing down. The way the app is being used has changed from when it was launched several months ago. It has become a more serious and thoughtful platform to let members know of both national issues and news from West Suffolk that constituents will I hope find useful. It is also a place where members can have their own community to share their news and opinions.
Q. How do you feel about answering questions live in the app?
A. I love the immediacy of it. It allows for a one-to-one dialogue between members and myself. It is current and it sends a message that I am listening to my constituents’ questions and concerns. The app makes it easy for members to get in touch with me and where appropriate, I can give a quick reply. And the chances are, if someone has a question about an issue, others will have that same question.
Q. And what’s next for the app?
A. We’ve been working with Disciple and the Jigsaw incubator within Alphabet to see how we can use technology to help improve conversations online. By integrating the Perspective API into my app, Disciple have helped me get a quick understanding of the ‘toxicity’ of comments made by members. This helps us moderate and keep an eye on those people who are impacting the nature and culture of the community.
We hope this is a useful test to find better ways of helping making people safer online.
Due to low storage I had to delete my Facebook app, Twitter app, photos app, camera, and phone to make room for this. Worth it. It’s the only app I’ll ever need from now on. - iOS User
This is a whole new paradigm in government and social media. If you're not Hancocking, you're missing out. - Google Play User
Best thing in British politics. - iOS User
New culture secretary Matt Hancock has become the first MP to launch his own smartphone app. The app features picture galleries and videos of the West Suffolk MP and updates on his activities. It also allows users to sign up as friends and chat with other fans of the Matt Hancock app. - BBC News
There is something for everyone on this groovy new app. Matt Hancockers can Matt Hancock each other about Matt Hancock, and post Matt Hancocks for Matt Hancock and stream Matt Hancocks live. - The Times
The app, available from Thursday on Android and iOS, is intended to allow the West Suffolk MP to communicate with members of his constituency, as well as update national followers with news related to his cabinet post and party-political messages. - The Guardian