Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Campaigning 2.0 Could Swing UK Vote

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Campaigning 2.0 Could Swing UK Vote

Article excerpt

As conditions in the economy tighten, oil prices rise and pressure mounts on the government, thoughts are turning to the next election. By law it has to take place by June 2010 and, while convention usually puts an election earlier, the current climate could persuade Gordon Brown to take it up to the wire.

The marketing of politicians and parties is changing, and the 2008 Democratic Party nomination battle in the US has shown how voters and politicians are using digital media to drive the political agenda.

The Pew Internet and American Life project funds academic research into how Americans use digital media, and a recent study has shown significant growth in its use by voters. According to the report, 46% of have used the internet, email or text messaging to access news about the campaign, share their views and mobilise others.

The internet has affected three important areas that have shifted the ground on which the election machine rolls and, in all of them, Barack Obama has been the first mover.

From the start, Obama was at a disadvantage. His campaign had less media access, particularly early on, and it was going to be a challenge to get his story out - especially without the editing and editorialising that can so affect a candidate's message.

Obama's solution was to go direct. More than any other candidate, he appealed directly to the voter, through blogs and podcasts - reaching out without the interference of the media, and making a point of it - 'it is because the internet is a neutral platform that I can put out this podcast without having to go through any corporate media middleman,' he wrote.

If Howard Dean pioneered the political blog in 2004, Obama took campaigning 2.0, using flickr and YouTube. Americans have responded: 35% watched online political videos in 2008 - almost three times the proportion in 2004.

But it wasn't just what Obama used, it was how he used it. Sign up to Hillary Clinton's Twitter, and you started receiving her tweets. Sign up to Obama's, and within minutes he signed up to yours. Now, nobody thinks he's reading these thousands of (mostly mundane) thoughts, but this is good netiquette - and to users of Twitter, it just meant he got it.

Just as Clinton's was a conventional 'top down' campaign, Obama's was a grass-roots movement. There are more than 500 Obama groups on Facebook 'One Million Strong for Barack', started the day he announced his candidacy, had 100 members within an hour, 10,000 within a week, and 278,000 within a month. …

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