Will this be the last paper election?

With the General Election just around the corner, we look at how technology is playing a role in the way we engage with campaigns, feel connected and learn party policies, the only way it isn’t playing a role, is in how we actually vote.

This is the first UK election campaign to run so heavily on social media in the hope of engaging a broader audience, especially younger voters. In 2010, only 44% of 18 to 25 year olds voted, compared to 75% of over 65’s.  A recent poll predicting how many young people definitely plan to vote in the next general election was found to be only 23%, with 60% saying that they wanted to be able to vote online.

So what has changed about this years online campaign approach? Well, the answer is pretty much everything, as people have become more comfortable with social media sites, the online world has opened a door to new campaign tactics. It is estimated that the spend on social media has increased significantly with the Conservatives spending upwards of £100,000 and Labour spending £10,000 each month on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter campaigns.

The Electoral Commission is using mobile for the first time to persuade and encourage young people to vote in this year’s election. The campaign emphasises the importance of voting and highlights their role in the UK’s future. The mobile campaign forms part of a broader marketing push to encourage people to register to vote.

The emphasis on online campaigning stretches further than the top social networking sites. Politicians are seeing the benefits of getting involved with sites that reach voters who might not pay attention to more traditional forms of media. Sites such as BuzzFeed have a reach equal to or possibly greater than other news organisations and are being recognised for their ability to connect with voters.

In Britain, political advertising is banned on TV and Radio but not on the Internet, therefore enabling the parties to have more direct contact with the electorate through sites like Twitter and Facebook where comments can be read and replied to. Television debates include social media in their debate structure by posing questions from Twitter users to ask the political leaders.

2010 was an important year for social media campaigning, as it was the first year it was really possible. The previous general election of 2005 was limited online, seeing as Facebook was still restricted to US university students and Twitter didn’t start until March 2006.

The question is, will all of this Social media effort be worthwhile? Only time will tell, but it has certainly opened up a new platform for engaging voters.


Written by

Katherine Thomson