The Thick of It

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Did social media revolutionise the UK's general election campaign?

This post first appeared on Metrica's blog, Measurement Matters



I have been looking at what other commentators have had to say on whether we had an internet election. Did social media revolutionise our election campaign or merely show an evolution towards digital media?

There were victims who committed their “crimes” in social media, though very few. The spoofing of election posters at MyDavidCameron were the most memorable social media aspect of the campaign. Tech Radar argues that social media has “diluted the power of political posters…and it’s done the same with newspapers”. This is certainly true. Was this a revolution? Not really. This election will be remembered as the television election. It was the first in the UK with televised debates between the main party leaders. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown will likely also be remembered for criticising a voter when he thought his TV microphone had been turned off.

In a detailed account of the internet election Mark Pack points out that internet polling was widely used for the first time. This enabled polling companies to deliver almost real time poll results after the leaders’ debates. The internet has certainly fed mainstream media outlets with faster access to voters’ views, either through polling or raw comments on Twitter. Social media and the internet has helped parties and candidates organise their campaigns and volunteers. Whether it really changed how anyone voted is unclear. The resources available online make it easier for voters to find out about their candidates, as Left Foot Forward suggested. 

Echoing the findings of Metrica and Fishburn Hedges’ Mood-O-Meter, Tweetminster concluded that “there is a strong correlation between online buzz and party performance.” Our Mood-0-Meter showed positive buzz for the party leaders in line with party performance at the polls. Whilst it wouldn’t be right to say that social media provides an online opinion poll, people talk about what matters. The huge increase in buzz for Nick Clegg after the first leaders’ debate reflected public opinion and polling surveys.  

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones asked if politicians and voters are likely to be more inclined to use social media in the future. I think so, with many new MPs elected, many of them much younger than those they replaced, the appetite for social media will grow and is likely to become an integral part of future elections.  

The revolution hasn’t happened yet though. So far social media has played a role without taking centre stage, far more evolution than revolution.

1 comment:

Wills Surrey said...

Something to talk about, but could anyone honestly say his intention to vote for this party or that candidate (or against this party or that candidate) was formed or altered by new media.

Methinks it was a case of preaching to the converted, and commentator talking amongst themselves.