TechPresident and CNN International are posing the question whether this UK election is the first “social media” election. Certainly both Labour and the Tories have made extensive use of the Internet, including iphone apps, and innovative web apps. We’ve seen Twitter and Facebook used extensively, and David Cameron was widely reported in the election commentary as having mastered online campaigning.
However, in my view, this is not a “social media” or “internet” election. Rather, this is the first TV election in the UK. This election has had the first televised leaders debates in British history. Television is still the main mass-media communication channel, and up until this election, political parties in the UK have been unable to run TV ads with saturation coverage that we get in Australia or the US. The debates have acted as de facto election ads, with the leaders under pressure to give polished performances.
The television performances of the leaders have far outweighed the effects of the parties social media campaigns, although strong local campaigns in individual constituencies may affect a close outcome. Good use of social media in those campaigns obviously help.
Although this UK election is the “TV election”, we’ve also seen a glimpse of the future of UK election campaigning – making extensive use of the power of the internet to mobilise supporters, gather donations, and contact swinging voters. The energising of party supporters and activists online will continue to grow, and using cloud-based web apps (like MyConservative or Labour’s MemberNet) will become essential for modern parties in the UK, US and elsewhere.
This post is part of Project 52 – one blog post per week for the entire year.