The Social Media effect on the General Election

I’ve been fascinated watching what’s been happening in social media around the General Election. In the post “Rage Against the Machine for No 1” era (when a couple launched a Facebook campaign and knocked the default X-Factor Christmas single off the top spot), people understand that they can build a movement and many know how to do it (Forrester’s Groundswell research shows an increase in ‘Creator’ behavior – 24% of people create and upload content).

Its effects are already visible in a number of ways.

For instance, I’m writing this 24 hours after Gordon Brown called life-long Labour voter Gillian Duffy a “bigoted woman”. And #bigotedwoman is massively trending on Twitter and there are new Facebook groups popping up – the chatter is loud and constant. The Labour machine is trying to move the agenda on, and what’s really interesting is that the opposition doesn’t really need to stoke the fires, as the voters are doing it themselves.

During the leaders’ debates there was a huge amount of real time discussion on Twitter (via the #leadersdebate hashtag), with Social TV type commentary, which made it seem like a sporting event. Searches for ‘Quango’, ‘Jobs Tax’ and ‘Trident’ peaked within 30 minutes of the broadcast showing that people were engaged and wanting to know more.

Jon Morter (The Rage Against the Machine instigator) has launched the ‘We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!’ Facebook group and currently has 157,807 members. It’s an interesting thought, and with things so finely balanced, it could give the middle party enough scale to actually make a difference.

Groups of people and organisations are also producing useful applications to help voters navigate through the Parties’ impenetrable policies. For example Voteforpolicies (voteforpolicies.org.uk) has helped 203,534 people understand which party has which policy, pushing the charisma of party spokesmen into the background. 10 Downing Tweets (www.10downingtweets.co.uk) aggregates Tweets of the parties and leaders and presents them in real time, with some trend statistics to show how sentiment is shifting.

The parties have also (of course) been jumping on the social media bandwagon too, Tweets a plenty. They’re adding to the noise with a suite of entertain-and-share content ranging from the Labservative from the Liberals, the CameronGirls rapping for the Tories on their YouTube channel and even the Greens with their personalised policy videos. Some of the leaders are on the scene too, Nick Clegg having exceeded his Friends quota on Facebook now has 49,695 fans – not quite on a par with Barak Obama’s 8.2 million – but 18,000 more than David Cameron. Gordon Brown seems not to have bothered.

And so in some ways, most appropriately, it’s Gordon Brown who’s the subject of a charming social happening-come-flashmob. ‘Gordon Brown’s Leaving Pressie’ is a Facebook group dedicated to ideas for what to give him at his leaving do, which they’ll host at The Red Lion opposite Downing Street on May 7th.

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