Thursday, October 22, 2009

Its all about having a digital footprint

As part of the CENMEP project I have been reviewing how UK political parties used the Internet at the 2009 European parliamentary election. Looking back at Wainer Lusoli's work from 2004 it is hard to see any significant differences in strategy. Websites are now better constructed using the most up to date technologies, but only if you have the resources. In the case of the the majority of the 25 parties standing it was an online brochure offering little that was engaging when compared to the norms of Internet use across the corporate and not-for-profit sector. The big difference is the migration into social networking sites. Most parties now feature on Facebook, many use Twitter, YouTube is an easy way to promote videos be they sophisticated or home made, Flickr hosts photos of the leader or perhaps candidates. These do offer a new level of engagement, as on the whole you can comment on many of the material posted but I wonder if that is really the intention. Few parties seem to do much that encourages interaction. It seems to be, as the post title suggests, a way of extending the party's digital footprint; being found easily and so getting the message out as opposed to communicating with potential voters. So is the use of social networking little more than a way of advertising for free for political organisations? Beyond a small minority that seems to be the case. But the question is can we expect more, can the interactive features of SNS be adapted for political purposes within the context of a persuasive campaign? The suggestion is that we will see more of this at the UK 2010 election but whether there will be a substance to this online migration is a big question - all thoughts and predictions welcome.


Øyvind Kalnes said...

Hi Darren, interesting findings. I am about to analyse Norwegian data for the 2005 and 2009 elections within a few weeks. From the brief review so far, it appears that the patterns are similar.

Darren G Lilleker said...

It is rather strange in a way as there seems to have been a big take-up in the use of the Internet in the last 2-3 years, and there is the possible Obama effect, as well as the EP election offering a testing ground for 2010 general election but it doesn't really seem that either the Internet as a campaign tool, or the campaign itself, had and real effort devoted to it. Would be interested in your findings also - plan to do something comparative at IPSA in Luxembourg next April.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just stumbled across your blog for the first time, it seems like kindred blogging spirits.

Political parties should be focusing on making interesting digital content which their supporters can then share on social networks.

It's not a simple as having a facebook page or using twitter, you've got to create something of value which the electorate can engage with and pass on.

Political parties in this country are still yet to appreciate this basic facet of digital marketing and social media campaigning.

thesis said...

Thank you for information