Saturday, February 23, 2008

Co-production: the positives and negatives!

Social networking sites such as Facebook are not promotional tools, attempts to use social networking to promote products, brands or individuals that can use other media and are not part of the community can mean network users can reject them. Brands advertise via social media but seldom intrude using profiles etc; politicians are different, as individuals they can be members of a community but must also follow the communities rules and allow co-production of site or profile content. Friends can post words, pictures etc on each other's wall, interact with one another and maintain relationships via the site.

Politicians like to use the Internet as a promotional tool, and particularly at the party level want to communicate to voters but are worried of the consequences of allowing the ordinary people (which also includes opponents) to contribute whatever whenever they like. David Cameron seems to be willing to take that risk. The Webcameron YouTube page allows comments, unlike Labour, and his Facebook profile is asking supporters to upload pictures of them meeting him. The former gives the appearance of being open, the latter builds on this by providing the impression of accessibility.

But is this going to pay dividends or be a highly risky enterprise. At worst it could allow opponents to say what they like and give negative images and opinions wider circulation. But this may not be the problem it would seem. If Cameron and his communications team engage with critics it can diffuse the situation and provided images that could be damaging are greeted with humour rather than fear and censure, it could enhance the Cameron brand, it cannot replace substance but it may build positive perceptions and impressions.

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