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Old political habits killed the social media election

August 29, 2013

By Emma Lo Russo

Despite the expectations pre-campaign that the election battle could be fought effectively on social media, 2013 is already being written off as a missed opportunity Photo: Andrew Meares

Despite the expectations pre-campaign that the election battle could be fought effectively on social media, 2013 is already being written off as a missed opportunity Photo: Andrew Meares

It’s no surprise that the Federal Election campaign has failed to fire up the social media imagination, when politicians of all persuasions have reverted to their deeply­ held instincts to shout first, and listen second.

Reminding everyone that you’ve just given a speech in some outback town through Twitter or that you have produced a new brochure to download through Facebook is based on the old ­school broad­ based media approach to telling the country at large about something that may or may not be of interest to them.

Comparing the appointment of President Obama’s US social media teams also misses the key driving difference. The lack of compulsory voting in the US, and the reliance on donated funds to underwrite election campaigns, make the dynamics in American elections different from those here. US political parties have to work harder and smarter at connecting with the voters.

Analysing and engaging through the social web, talking more closely to smaller groups and networks of voters about topics of real interest to them, seems to be the primary opportunity missed by both parties.

In Australia the opportunity has always been there to influence and educate communities, and to build community support for a political party and its local candidate.

In the commercial world this is social CRM (customer relationship management), or sCRM. In the electoral world, let’s call it sVRM ­ social voter relationship management, the ability to define and manage an active relationship with voters segmented by electorate or region, by risk or voting preference, or by other criteria defined by each political party.

Social strategy really needs to move from being simply another broadcast channel, and from simplistic measurements of popularity based on the number of followers.

Whether politics or business it needs to be about engaging with audiences by listening to and mapping those who are active, interested and influential on the social web back to databases ­ determining when and what issues people are reacting to and engaging with. In election terms this means voters in electorates.

This can now be done down to cities, to regions within cities (western Sydney, for example), to particular areas of local interest or topics of community interest, in other words to the topics of relevance to the differing communities and segments, each being something that can be addressed by and to the right party official or candidate.

This allows political parties and candidates (if they are of a mind to) to listen to voter demands and preferences ahead of elections on a much more granular, yet larger, scale.

And the needs and preference of retirees may well differ from those with young families, although our experience is that, the data being what they are, those differences might not be what’s expected and might still surprise.

Policies can be crafted and tested based on conversations and sentiments expressed by those on the social web ­ creating and tweaking policies based on public or electorate sentiment.

In the election cycle itself, feedback and reactions to announcements can be analysed, and the same mapped back to voting demographics as visits are planned.

Commercial organisations not engaging in social CRM in some form today are regarded with varying degrees of suspicion. The same should apply to political parties. That’s why President Obama has been successful with social media in two US elections. He and his advisers get the “social” bit of the social web.

It’s all too late now for this Australian Federal Election. Again. Read more in the Financial Review.


From → Analysis

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