New Media and the Political mismatch

Politicians love to pretend they have a handle on pretty well everything and now the Labour Party has chosen new media co-ordinator.

While it is good to see politicians engaging on the internet, the new Labour Party appointee still doesn’t appear to have understood social marketing on the internet.

She says in an interview with Labourlist

‘…Rather than being something completely new, campaigning using new media is simply doing what we’ve always done in a new setting – and rather than replacing traditional ways of doing things, it is about making traditional campaigning methods even more effective….’

It would be good to see British Politicians actually understand what they are getting engaged with.

Had Obama just used ‘traditional campaigning methods’ it is highly unlikely he would have received his massive funding through private donations, nor achieved the wide spread popular support. He continues to use the internet as a way to promote what he is seeking to achieve and has not reverted to just the ‘traditional’.

In her interview she focuses on Social networking and blogging, but doesn’t seem to have grasped the enormity of the potential to put ‘traditional campaigning’ to the back seat.

People have lost time for politicians partly because of traditional campaigning methods, where the only time most people see an MP is in ‘surgery’ dealing with a problem, or when MPs want their vote.

As a twitterer, she is already in a position of having started undoing ‘traditional campaigning’ by being out there, along with some of her colleagues with their twitter, facebook and blogging accounts. This is far from the traditional methods of engagement.

I keep various twitter accounts to enable me to follow and manage different interest groups and have recently set up a twitter account focused on the political sphere, as it was apparent an increasing number of politicians were using the site.

Experience is showing that the value of social networking has swum past many of those with political interest. They push pretty much the same dogma through their twitter stream as they do through their media appearances, with the odd piece of personalisation.

They absolutely refuse to cede any discussion from their mainstream opposition and focus pretty well all of their energies on boosting either their own ego or that of those in their party.

Whilst this swims well with the ‘Political set’ it has very limited potential to reach a wide audience and is typically the same group of people speaking to the same audience about the same things, ie. traditional campaigning.

Setting out on a social networking strategy the first decision, to make is who is the target audience and how do you engage with that audience. Evidence I have found suggests that the political social networkers and bloggers are aiming to target other political networkers and haven’t worked out that the target audience could be very different.

Reading the blogs, the MPs are not trying to reach a wider audience, referring to each other constantly and only commenting on the blogs of their little set.

They gauge each other on their own success in their niche market, failing to acknowledge there is a wider world out there.

That is absolutely great for those who are purely engaged in that market, why would they have a wider interest group. However, for MPs continually swimming in the same pool, will not change anything or reach a wider audience.

As an internet business model, this will never grow beyond a small niche market as there are virtually no new relationships. The MPs are relying on the odd person who comes in from the outside world to spread their message for them. On the internet this wont happen.

The Labour new media expert talks about facebook as being a place to connect with old friends, she evidently doesn’t have a clue about facebook, and the use of groups and pages. Many people use Facebook as their internet, rarely leaving its portals, to fail to grasp the significance of facebook, is myopic.

She talks about people coming to find politicians on the internet, as though it is up to individuals to do the work. Were I not interested in politics I wouldn’t have bothered to set up a new twitter account, wouldn’t have a clue about her new appointment and certainly wouldn’t bother to ‘find’ a politician online. Obama didn’t wait on his backside for people to come and find him.

As an example of how British politicians just don’t get social networking:

The NHS campaign she seems to believe was something that politicians developed.

Reading the list of posters on the save the NHS hashtag shows enormous numbers of people who don’t appear to engage with politicians. Instead of working out a way to use this demographic and create a continuing crowd, she misses precisely the value of twitter as an engagement and resource platform and where its limitations lie and how now developing a friendfeed; a facebook group, or a myriad of other group sites, such as Ning etc., could easily build an engagement platform by the politicians getting off their backsides and being proactive, she just wants to claim political ownership of the campaign and leave it to lie.

It would be great if Politicians did get the internet, but from the initial interview from the new media expert for the Labour Party, I really don’t think they are any where near understanding Social Networking and engagement.

I guess they spend too much time slapping each others backs to realise the internet is far broader and bigger than their political swimming pool.


The Labour Party has an internal conflict in the use of new media, as Hazel Blears commented just a few months ago when Gordon Brown made his now ridiculed foray on youtube

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Share on Tumblr Share

Related posts:

A guide to members allowances
Ed Vaizey and the lost plot
The Democratic Disconnect

2 Responses “New Media and the Political mismatch”

  1. Kate says:

    I blogged about this a few months ago when Hazel Blears said social media was a waste of time for politicians. You’re right! They really don’t get it. I suppose they’ve got so used to talking at us, the idea of reaching out and trying to build a two-way communication just doesn’t compute. Plus,as you say, if they stick to their little bubble of reality, they can constantly reinforce each other, without ever have to hear any of that nasty old criticism we might put to them.

  2. anarchyintheuk says:

    Brevity never was my strong suit Kate. You have it in a nutshell.

Let us talk about
Name and Mail are required
Join the discuss