Social media shapes first digital election, NOT

Following on from last week’s blog, the Conservative party versus Joanna Lumley; it is interesting to see the Tories have again turned to M&C Saatchi to get their advertising back on track. A well-informed friend of mine tells me Steve Hilton, Cameron’s director of strategy who is based in California “has been re-writing Euro RSCG ads”, hardly likely he’s got an ear to the ground on what gets voters going.

I also note Social media shapes first digital election. The Conservatives having led the charge are now being rapidly caught on the rails by Labour, driven by a head of new media, ratheran old-fashioned moniker for such a modern role.

I have a strong point-of-view on this. Social networks can have an effective role in communicating to party activists, allowing central office to get feedback on policy, advertising and local issues. However, there is no evidence on the effect social media can have on voting intentions amongst the vast majority of the population. Currently both parties are using it mainly for PR stunts, including another yawn, yawn, story about getting people to submit ideas online for campaign posters.

If they were serious about social media they would be running advertising and PR campaigns to get local communities, and not party activists whose votes are guaranteed, to say what is important to them and those within their social networks. This can be monitored effectively online.

Maybe it would also demonstrate one way or the other whether phenomena such as Facebook have large networks of deeply connected friends or not. My guess is they’re actually mainly comprised of shallow and transitory acquaintances. I understand the strength of some online groups but they tend to be single-issue, remember the excellent PR award winning “bring back the Wispa” Facebook campaign.

I have an idea on use of resources, engaging real people and winning over floating voters.

Parties and their strategists need to devise a strong national message. This could take the form of a key policy or a major weakness in the opposition. I am not a creative, they’ll devise the best slogan.

Next, create a resonant local message, based on feedback from your social media efforts.

Finally, run a national campaign on large format posters. Only buy locations where there are billboards next to each other. Put the national slogan on one and the local on the other. Using digital posters they could even run a national message followed by a local one on the same location, easily changing copy as new ideas emerge, or a reaction is needed to events.

Bingo, on Election Day the votes come flooding in.

One last thing, spotted on the front page of the News of the Screws last Sunday. The Conservatives have received a boost in the polls as “voters warm to Sam Cam’s pregnancy”. Now we know The Sun and NOTW will want to be the papers “wot won it for the Tories”, but really, how much more trivial could they be.

  • http://

    Hi Ivan, Some interesting points, but I take issue with this: “there is no evidence on the effect social media can have on voting intentions amongst the vast majority of the population.” As a counter-point, take a look at this overview of the Obama campaign’s social strategy:

    I think saying it can only really reach ‘party activists’ does a disservice to the network effect of social media..

    Cheers, Dylan