Tweeting Brown and web Cameron: How to win votes Obama-style

Tweeting Brown and web Cameron: How to win votes Obama-style

Summary: But it's not online election perfection yet: Why UK politicians are still floundering in a web 2.0 whirlpool

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Tapping into public power
The fact stands, however, that since the 2005 general election all of the UK parties have made progress in engaging with voters online - through new websites, social networking channels and in encouraging users to mash-up their content.

Both the Hansard Society and Rospars acknowledge how much more weight an endorsement of a party carries if it comes from a friend or family member, rather than directly from the political party, particularly in the wake of the damage done to politicians' public standing following last year's expenses scandal.

The Hansard Society report said: "The collapse in trust in politicians and, by extension, the political system following the expenses scandal means that traditional party broadcasts and sloganeering are no longer as effective as they once were, further boosting the credibility of peer-to-peer campaigning compared to more conventional methods."

Rospars said: "The highest quality interaction around political interaction is from their family, friends or colleagues. If somebody is passing on a message to their friends that's much better than it being delivered from an email bash from the party."

The Conservatives tapped into this phenomenon when they aped a strategy used by Obama in his presidential campaign and asked about 6,000 of the Conservative Party's fans to donate their Facebook status updates to the party to spread a political message during last year's European Parliament elections.

Shadow culture secretary Hunt said: "We were therefore able to send messages encouraging people to read our manifesto and vote for us via our supporters' profiles.

"The impact of this personal advocacy was even more powerful as it went to their networks of largely unpolitical friends, rather than preach to the converted.

"Over one million personal messages were sent via this app, so it proved to be incredibly effective."

Labour encourages supporters to produce user-generated content and has made available a series of campaign and poster creation tools on their website, as well as setting up LabourSpace, a message board where users can start campaigns.

Negative user-generated content can be even more effective. Members of the public produced parodies of a Conservative campaign poster showing an airbrushed photo of David Cameron, in which he was restyled as various characters including Elvis and the Little Britain character Vicky Pollard. The mock posters drew heavy web traffic and are now easier to find online than the Tory originals.

david cameron

The original image of David Cameron produced by the Conservative Party
(Photo credit: The Conservative Party)

david cameron

The defaced version of the David Cameron poster showing him as Elvis
(Photo credit: Andy Barefoot)

Regardless of its success, the emergence of digital election strategies has subtly altered the way that the political parties approach campaigning.

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Topic: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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