Election 2010 was supposed to be the UK's first social media powered election, but with the advent of our first ever Leaders Debates, it became resolutely a TV-powered election.
But that doesn't mean same-interest groups aren't coalescing and making their point online; quite the opposite. It's just that the majority of the British public aren't that engaged with social media just yet. And don't start with that "but Obama did it in 2008" malarkey... sure, he ran a great campaign, but when you break it down you find that the majority "online" effort was plain old email marketing. Good on him, but this hardly makes anyone's definition of social media.
Let's take a brief look at two campaigns running right now, post-election.
In Vince Cable We Trust!
This group's hub can be found at www.invincecable.org.uk, and its stated objective is:
To harness a groundswell of the UK electorate such that, in the event of a hung parliament, the Prime Minister has no choice but to invite Vince Cable to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Now, I know quite a bit about the machinations of this group because I'm part of it. So I can tell you about what's worked and what hasn't. Let's start with the hasn't's....
A call to action #FAIL!
Whilst our group recognised this potential weakness up front, we hadn't quite appreciated how important it is... a social media campaign, like any campaign of course, must have a definitive description of what you want those who agree with you, or who are persuaded to your point of view, to do.
Not having a client in the traditional sense of the word, we thought we'd just kick up a stink and others would kick up too. But whilst this country did indeed get itself a hung parliament (one in which no party can proceed alone to form a government), none of us could actually vote for one. And there was never going to be a "Vote for Vince Cable" box on the election papers outside of his local constituency.
We had thought others could just do what we were doing, shout about why our man was by far the most suitable candidate for Chancellor of the Exchequer, but again, unless they could translate this into a call to action to their readers and followers, what exactly were they going to recommend?
Now that we have got ourselves a hung parliament (which btw I consider to be a good thing for the country right now), we can ask people to shout again. And indeed, we have called today "Blog Vince Day", but with negotiations going on behind closed doors between Conservatives and LibDems, and between Labour and LibDems, it's unclear again what influence we can have on these discussions.
If you do agree with our campaign's assertions however, do blog, comment and / or tweet about it, with the hashtags #invincecable and #ukelection. Now! Thanks!
We've definitely succeeded in making our point to a wide range of social media participants. Saying that, I'm supposed to be an expert in social Web analytics, and campaign measurement & evaluation.... And whilst the absence of a client was fantastic in giving us no constraints on what we could do, no client also means no budget and therefore no sophisticated attempt at measurement & evaluation :-(
(And before you mention the free tools, you might be interested in my slidestack: Influence. The bullshit, best practice and promise.)
Here's a quick look at three of our highs:
- We made Vince the Mayor of Number 11 Downing Street on FourSquare... cheeky, easy, quick and effective... well w.r.t. the FourSquare and Twitter community anyway
- Our Crowd Flutter had William Hill suspend bets and then shorten the odds on Vince becoming Chancellor. In fact, I believe the neologism "Crowd Flutter" was born of a member of our campaign team
- Our campaign and website were covered on BBC TV news... it seems today that social media has to attract sufficient buzz to be covered by traditional media in order to take it to the next level of social media momentum... and I wonder when that reliance will fade?
Take Back Parliament
The Take Back Parliament campaign has kicked off as the usual distortion of our electoral process has once again become a painful reminder of its inadequacies, or simply the butt of jokes.
Interestingly, and in contrast to the InVinceCable campaign, Take Back Parliament benefits from it having emerged from a coalition of established bodies as listed at the bottom of their homepage. It has gone from nought to thirty five thousand supporters in three days... several times larger than the InVinceCable community at a rough count.
One of their first calls-to-action was a demonstration in London, to which 100 supporters responded according to Twitter reports. My favourite Tweet referred to this being the first demonstration the reporter had witnessed where the placards portrayed pie charts!
I've signed up. Being fascinated by the potential of social media, and interested in politics, this is by far the best way to learn what works and what doesn't.
Democracy defined as putting a cross in a box every four years isn't quite fully democratic in my opinion, but then I wouldn't want a referenda based approach like Switzerland's either.
As Sir Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
NOW DON'T FORGET... IT'S "BLOG VINCE DAY"!
May the voice of the people be heard!!