Facebook isn’t a political weapon unless you love Rage Against the Machine.

Despite the claims by the digital industry (hyped
up as ever, based on
quantity not quality) I have to doubt that social networking is really
going to
swing many votes for the main parties. Well with one possible exception –
We
got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into #10!

Facebook
can be a friend of foe, great for positive chat as well as negative
chat. alas
I’ve picked up far more negative comments than positive ones. Especially
parties slagging off the other ones. This is a dirty election.

Of
course
this time parties have been able to set up their fan pages and get their
members to join, but it seems not many are. And even once people sign up
I’m
not sure politicians are using the sites well, too many party political
broadcasts. Only the LibDems allow you to
openly post up on their wall, the others screen everything first, so
making for
very dull sites.

The
membership of
the main political parties has been falling year on year and parties
seem to
all have terrible figures (figures vary according to source and are
often
disputed by the parties) these below are from the House of Commons
Library. Only
1.3% of the electorate are members of one of the main political parties,
so not
many dedicated followers then.

Back in the 1950s Labour had 1.6 million
but by the
late 1970s, membership had fallen to around 660,000 and to 348,000 by
the
1980s.

The Tories had nearly 3 million members (2,805,832 in
1953) but by 1970 it had halved.

So far, despite all the advancement in
marketing
know how, all the parties now have less, which doesn’t say much for
their
direct marketing specialists does it? All the millions of pounds they
have
spent above and below the line, and online, have done nothing to win
over the
voter. Yet one 90 minute spot on TV has achieved far more (proves TV is
still
the medium for influence).

In fact, response rates over the last 30
years across marketing generally haven’t improved, despite the growth of
research, data, books on theories of marketing and endless so called
marketing
science. And despite the glam of the internet, online ads have the worse
response rate of any media in history. Even door drops and inserts do
better.

Today,
Labour has
166,000, though they could probably add a good percentage of union
members as a
secondary line of membership (approx 2m). That’s less than in
1923.Tories have
250,000 and the LibDems just 60,000 (their peak was in 1993 with
101,000). The
UK now has one of the lowest rates of political party membership among
established European democracies and it’s declining, could that be
because
voters are seeing parties as less important or even less defined – can
you spot
the difference on some policies?

FACEBOOK –
GET THE REAL THE FACTS

The
membership
figures are rarely accurate as parties like to keep them secret, but not
so
with Facebook, it’s all there to see. I’ve been monitoring them over a
number
of days and following the second debate. It’s one of the best accurate
ways to see support, so how are they doing?

Pre the
second
debate the Lib Dem was 57,591 (and had seen steady growth the
few days before), Tories
was 58,222 (with a similar growth to the LibDem) and Labour was a poor
third
with 28,074 members.

Their
youth parties didn’t see much change after the TV debate, current
numbers are:
Liberal Youth 3376
(+38),
Conservative Future 3077 (+13) and Labour Youth 599 (+1). So obviously
those
young people using Facebook weren’t influenced by the debate.

However,
the picture
is different for the main party sites.

Post
debate the
LibDems saw an increase of + 4,531 to 62,122, the Tories an increase of +
3,184
to 61,407, while poor Labour saw a minor increase of just 1,023, raising
it
to 29,097.

Labour
have seen no
significant rise over the weekend (+ 652) but the
Tories have put on a massive 3,455 members and the
LibDems 3,262. So LibDems and the
Tories neck and neck with Labour a long way behind. Maybe it’s a two
horse
race, not three.

Of course the LibDems have another site that is
backing them. Not a
political party but a group that has already had great success and is
proving
social networking can occasionally change things – We got Rage Against
the
Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!

Currently they have 150,048 members and growing
fast. After the TV
debate they added 4,975 members, more than any other parties, adding
4,619 over
the weekend. Overall, they have almost as many supporters as the three
parties
put together.

So is Facebook the cornerstone of the claimed
power of social
networking to change the face of British politics? Well not in the hands
of the
politicians but maybe in the hands of the real people.

PUSHING
YOUR OWN
POLICIES

Of course
Facebook
does allow some playful fun. Check out http://apps.facebook.com/floatyourvote/
it’s a fun way to get your Facebook friends to vote on any issue. I
asked
friends to vote on the issue of loss of freedom and civil liberties. 90%
feel
we need to reverse the trend and reclaim our rights. Did you know that
education authorities have been fingerprinting school kids, despite the
fact
it’s against the European Human Rights act? Schools
have already fingerprinted more
than two million children, some as young as three (see
http://www.leavethemkidsalone.com/).

HOW THE
NATION
SWINGS

According
to
Voteomatic (http://www.votomatic.co.uk/)
another site that helps you pick your party by selecting the policy that
you
most agree with, 42% of the nation are voting LibDem, 30% Tory and 29%
Labour
(which adds up to 101!). These figures are rounded off and exclude
undecided
people, of which there are many.

BEN &
JERRY’S

That iconic brand has
launched a new series of
political flavours -caramel-flavoured Cameron Chew Chew, Cheesecake
Clegg and Gordon Fudge Brown(ie), even the Monster Raving Loony party
gets
included, with Fairtrade Fairly Nuts Monster Raving Loonies flavour. The
range
will be sold up to May 6th.

  • http://

    We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113749985304255

  • http://

    So the Labour Party have recruited the director of 24 to make a party political ad. So while Cameron has been portrayed as Gene Hunt, will we be seeing Jack Browner try and save the Labour vote in 24 hours?

  • http://

    Angus Reid post-debate poll among undecided voters:
    Who won the debate?
    Clegg 37%, Cameron 25%, Brown 22%

    32% now more likely to vote Lib Dem,
    18% now more likely to vote Conservative,
    15% now more likely to vote Labour