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.
Today we have a guest blogger on Digital Prefect – Laura McNally is a PR and communications student studying at Birmingham City University. She is currently completing a 3 week placement at Twelve PR.
I’d thought I’d be topical with my blog choice and analyse the use of social media with the upcoming elections.
My PR class (which is part of the Media school) received a guest lecture from a teacher at the Business and Marketing School. As a proud American democrat, it wasn’t surprising that her chosen subject was President Barack Obama’s election campaign.
Although Obama had the advantage of being a naturally likeable character, which in my opinion cannot be said about most of the British politicians, his mass social media campaign was the winning element that helped him to reel in those crucial extra votes. Every form of social media you could possibly think of was embraced, meaning his presence was almost inescapable. Although this may sound excessive, it was widely welcomed and carried out in such a way that the online community felt a mutual and honest relationship rather than a flood of cheap marketing tactics shoved down their throats.
Clearly it would be a wise choice for our UK parties to follow in the US President’s footsteps, but whether they have or not is a different story. So far I have not been targeted by any party online (which says something already) so I decided to check them out for myself. All of the three main parties are on Twitter and Facebook, and post blogs and videos on their websites, however I am disappointed by the overall lack of creativeness.
Matching up to Obama’s campaign may be a difficult task, but come on, at least give it a go!
Social media is set to be a big factor in the upcoming general election, with an increasing number of MPs canvassing for votes through the medium of Twitter, and an equally high number of potential voters voicing their opinions on the political party’s policies.
Now that the leaders’ wives play a much more visible role in campaigning, I have found myself warming more to Sarah Brown than her counterparts Samantha Cameron and Miriam Clegg, and I suspect this has much to do with the wonderful Twitter.
Of the three wives, Sarah is the only one to have an active Twitter account, and being the avid Twitter addict that I am – I am of course a follower of Gordon’s other half. Regular updates from Sarah (and yes I do feel that as a close, personal Twitter follower, it is acceptable for me to be on first name terms with her…) let me know where she is on the campaign trail (Kent last week), updates on her charitable work and even news on her latest cooking endeavours (which I imagine will be less regular in the coming weeks…). This insight into her life makes her slightly more accessible to the masses…and also slightly more endearing.
My only access to Samantha Cameron is through the newspapers, often critical, articles about her outfit choices – there is just no glimpse at the real person there. Twitter has the power to revolutionise this year’s general election because it makes politics available to a generation which might not have previously engaged with it.
Sarah Brown has the potential to put Labour one-step ahead by providing the human and familiar face of the party.
I am still an undecided voter, so I cannot yet say whether Sarah’s social media presence, or the general debate taking place on Twitter, will sway my vote – but I will keep you posted!