Conservatives: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blog/Website, delicious, Podcasts, Livestream, Youtube
Liberal Democrats: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blog/Website
Labour Party: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blog/Website
What is it about?
This year’s general election was certainly one of the toughest elections that Britain has seen in recent memory. It resulted with a win for David Cameron and the Tory’s who formed a coalition government with Nick Clegg’s Liberals. The election had a few firsts: it was the first time that the candidates participated in an American style debate, and it was the first time that social media played a role in determining the result of the election.
About the campaign
Through out the history of the elections, the British media was notorious for its ability to destroy public figures if they so wished and they wielded their power mercilessly. In the 2005 election, Facebook was limited to US universities while Twitter started in 2006, so this was the first time that the British media had some competition in shaping the public opinion.
All parties establish a prominent presence on several social media sites, especially on Twitter and Facebook. While all parties did their homework about being present on all the usual suspects, the Conservatives went beyond the call of duty. They established a presence on some even less known networks (Livestream) or those who are not usually used by political parties (delicious).
There are several highlights for social media during the campaign and we’ll be mentioning the main events that occurred:
After the first debate, Nick Clegg’s star rose dramatically and the UK media machine started grinding its gears in order to spew negative news items to thwart his rise. In response, fans of the Liberal Democratic party and Nick Clegg organized a counter campaign on Twitter with the tag #nickcleggsfault to make fun off of the media stories that were published. The campaign was successful and pushed the media into a corner where they had to explain themselves.
Democracy UK held the first social media election in the UK and polled more than half a million UK users on Facebook asking them about whom they will vote for. The result was surprising to say the least, Nick Clegg of the LibDems took home 42% while David Cameron of the Conservatives and Gordon Brown of the Labour party took 31% and 27% respectively. Though like all online polls that proved to be far from what happened in the actual election, it was the canary in the mine for the Labour and Conservative parties.
Having a chance to experience the power of the American style debate format for the first time, the parties handled it greatly and leveraged their Youtube channels to get their message through. The Digital Debates were a great compliment. The Conservative party was the most successful in sparking the debate and engaging their electorate using Youtube comments, Facebook and Twitter. This expanded the discussion from being just on screen to moving into mobile devices and computers. So, while Youtube didn’t have a single moment where it was a stellar medium for General Election news, it was certainly a huge contributor to the conversation.
The Buzz that was generated through-out the election was considerable, and the Conservative party was the clear winner in both the social media battle and the actual elections. They have managed to increase the number of their followers considerably during the campaign. Their Youtube views increased from about 1.6 million to 2.6 million total views over the course of the campaign, considerably dwarfing the the ~30,000 increase in views for the LibDems or the ~413,000 views for the Labour Party’s channel.
Whether it was on Twitter, blog posts, Facebook or Youtube it is clear that the Conservative party social media strategy did succeed in attracting its crowd and getting them vocal about the party which certainly has contributed to their win.
Why did it do what it did?
It is only the beginning! The general election is a major event that occurs every 5 years and the contribution of social media will only grow stronger over the years. The fact that the social media campaigns where handled this professionally and candidates cared about it enough to have their own twitter accounts (e.g. @nick_clegg).
People Are Getting Involved! One of the problems over the past two decades has been that the electorate turnout was in a downward spiral. So while the turn out for the 2010 election was a mediocre 65%, it felt different because individuals were involved. That involvement through social media will surely reflect into a greater turnout in the future.
What do you think is the impact of social media on elections of the future? Who was more successful utilizing social media in their campaigns, the Americans or the British?
Let us hear your thoughts.