Tag Archives: Politics

This. Is. Powerful. Stuff.

When Labour MP Kerry McCarthy was named Labour’s ‘Twitter Tsar’ back in August last year, several commentators rightly predicted that this year would see the UK’s very first ‘Social Media’ election.

Indeed, we now have a glut of MPs and parliamentary candidates tweeting about their campaign trail; the electorate can ‘like’ or become a fan of a political party on Facebook; the Liberal Democrats released an iPhone app to coincide with their manifesto launch – Social Media really has become the playground in which we, the general public, are being wooed.

But whilst this spate of activity highlights the possibilities of branding, marketing and mass communication, it has been another element of the forthcoming election that has really highlighted the incredible importance of Social Media as a real-time communications platform – the much-publicised Leaders’ Debates.

In similar vein to BBC Question Time (Twitter users regular tweet their opinions on the show as it is aired using the hashtag #BBCqt), the Leaders’ Debates have drawn a staggering amount of real-time comment, debate and interaction, using the hashtag ‘#leadersdebate’. Similar communities of people do exactly the same for Match of the Day, Doctor Who – the list really is limitless. But the Leaders’ Debates have drawn such a level of engagement that really is difficult to ignore.

People are once again engaging with politics in the UK – this fact is impossible to deny. There has been a huge surge in people registering to vote, which although most likely fuelled by a desire for change, once again shows how involving this election campaign is turning out to be.

But what this Social Media interaction really shows is how online channels such as Twitter really are providing people a ‘voice’ like never before. Although in no way comparable to the liberating role Twitter played during the Iran election protests, the huge interest in this election is highlighted by the fact that people are using Social Media to talk about it – and Social Media affords everyone a voice – one of the most fundamental principles of democracy.

As a marketer, I don’t need to be told of the possibilities that Social Media holds for brands and businesses. But in our rush to create dynamic, commercially viable SM campaigns that deliver lashings of ROI, perhaps we should start every campaign looking at the core element highlighted by the Leaders’ Debates.

Social Media is a communications tool – where the user has the power.

As Social Media marketers, we do not dictate the conversation and no longer direct a one-way flow of communication. The consumer audience now has power like never before – they have a voice – and it is our job to ensure our voice is part of their conversations.

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Social Media, the Elected & the Electorate…

It’s not only brands that are marketing themselves through social media – the public sector has also embraced all things social media related…

Accusing politicians of being inaccessible to the people they purport to represent is hardly an original notion. For years gone by, critics have accused elected representatives of sitting in an ivory tower and passing laws for a society they don’t really have any communication with. Well, whatever political beliefs you subscribe to, one thing is fast becoming clear – social media is granting us more access to our Government than ever before.

Of course, (the more cynical) marketers amongst us will argue that political communications through channels such as Twitter are simply an extension of political PR; managed by a press office function and devoid of any real authenticity. This may well be true in certain cases; however there’s no denying that Twitter also has a range of genuine politicians who are actively seeking to engage with voters and constituents through this blossoming channel.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, is perhaps one of the most prominent politicians to be championing social media; so much so that the Labour Party made her New Media Campaigns Spokesperson back in August. The creation of this significant role not only tasks McCarthy with encouraging MPs and government officials to use new media as a form of engagement with voters, but also demonstrates the level of importance the Government now assigns to social media as a communications tool.

Miss McCarthy is not the only politician flying the social media flag however. The list of MPs using Twitter is now too long to list individually and this can only be a good thing. Many voters remained disillusioned following the expenses scandal – an incident worsened due to its arrival in a very hard recession – so the transparency social media affords is the perfect antidote to any remaining ill feeling.

This transparency allows the public to connect with politicians like never before, especially through the real time posting of pictures, links and information. Not only can the public now feel included in current events – pictures allow them to see what’s happening and feel involved like never before. Take this (admittedly rather posed) picture of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and colleague Vince Cable (click here) – we’re involved in what they’re doing because we can see it. Instantly.

Social media does not pretend to be an answer to political problems. Just because a politician is on Twitter does not make their policies correct. However social media allows people to connect better than ever before – and goes a long way to closing the distance between the electorate and the elected.