So..the social media election that we were promised turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. There weren’t any particularly awe inspiring tweets from party leaders, no furious tapping away on blackberries and despite strong online support for the Lib Dems (Nick Clegg ‘won’ each television debate according to Facebook voters) this did not materialise into votes.
Don’t get me wrong, social media campaigns were launched by the parties, but it seems to me they were mainly half-hearted attempts:
The Conservatives, launched an iPhone application at the beginning of March offering news from the Conservative campaign, a guide to all the party’s key policies, and a mechanism to make party donations. Hardly a vote winner for the undecided. They made a slightly better stab at the social media jungle on voting day by placing an advertisement outlining their “contract” with voters on YouTube. A quick way to reach up to 10 million people – but was it too little too late?
Labour, meanwhile, made their digital media foray through mobile and social networking – sending a mass text message to supporter urging them to encourage others to vote Labour and releasing an application for Twitter and Facebook allowing users to change their avatars (or profile pictures) to ‘I’m Voting Labour on May 6’. But was it successful – I did see few of these cropping up on my Twitter feed (and actually found it quite irritating), but none on Facebook. And is preaching to the converted really the way to sway voters…
The Lib Dems were hailed as Kings of Digital with the most ‘user friendly website’ and commanded social media attention with Twitter #iagreewithnick hashtags and YouTube responses on the same theme and Facebook flash mobs in Trafalgar Square – but these were produced by users rather than initiated by the party itself. User generated campaigns should arguably be more influential, but as I have already noted, this support did not convert into votes.
But where social campaigns were lacking, there is no denying that there was a lot of talk about the general election, particularly surrounding the television debates and the run-up to election day. Perhaps it is enforcing the message that we do not want to be preached to on social media, we want to debate and share our views with like-minded peers. It was the people that made the social media election – not the politicians.