Sunday, 14 March 2010

Will Social Media Lead the 2010 Election in the UK?

Just as the US elections used social media to communicate with voters, so it is in the UK.

Obama is a ‘role model’ for campaigning online and for his success with online fundraising. According to Business Week, in July alone, Obama’s fundraising doubled that of McCain, generating $51 million. In addition, the Obama campaign has cited that 88% of their donations have come from online resources. This has never happened before. The man knows how to move and engage people; he listens, he reacts, he empowers. The Washington Post has even gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

In social media you have to be able to give up some of the power. But how can you when power is what drives an election?

In the past, a campaign team may have overreacted to a video such as Obama Girl or been concerned about not having a say in the messaging behind a video such as Yes We Can. Instead, Obama’s team has embraced these videos and recognised the value and power of user-generated content in moving others to action. However the UK politicians are not fully ready to give up that kind of power. They want to follow Obama’s strategy in their own elections, but on the other hand, do it with much caution. The UK election has gone online, and many are now discussing if it is beneficial for the 2010 election or not.

Even before official campaigning begins, one thing seems clear - this election is going to be fought in cyberspace as well as on the doorsteps (BBC). Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are now seen as crucial battlegrounds, as well as potential forums for political mistakes. The influence of bloggers are enormous, they have the power to very fast spread their view of either supporting or attacking the various parties. These are the reason behind why the UK politicians fear the social media.

The reason social media campaigning was so successful for Obama, was that he was able to reach and influence the younger voters who might well take a steer from their peers rather than traditional media. When it comes to politics, it seems young people are less interested in participating, however with the social media, even when you can’t vote, you are part of the community who can. Which means people can still be heard.

It looks like the UK politicians are sceptical about the social media approach, Mr. Cameron might have made it clear last year that he is no fan of Twitter (BBC), however when they see the results they quickly change their minds. The news comes as David Cameron has said he is considering finally joining Twitter the social networking site (PRWeek), following his infamous ‘too many twits make a twat’ gaffe on Absolute Radio last July.

According to resent statistics conservative party dominates social media platform Facebook as election approaches (PRWeek). The research showed a staggering 4,688 comments and wall posts had been made on the party's fan page. This compared with only 1,229 commented or posted on the Labour Party's page and 727 on the Liberal Democrats. The figures demonstrate a substantial gap between the Conservatives' online engagement tactics on the platform. And still Mr. Cameron is afraid of Twitter; despite the success they have on Facebook. The biggest challenge for the parties will be to turn their Facebook friends into Facebook supporters.

Winning elections is about finding your voters and getting them to vote for you on the day. It is here we will see how effective social media campaign is in the UK.

So what will we see in our first social media affected election?

I predict we will see more MPs surrender to the online campaigns, which will stop them gaining more power. We will see the candidates who use social media getting higher audience, as the online activity creates a buzz around their election. I believe that the 2010 elections will see social media playing a big role for politicians. It will also generate more interest among the younger voters.





Business Week

The Washington Post

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