Monday, 28 March 2011

NI Politics playing catch up with Social Media.

If people think that the importance of effective use of social media to political campaigns is overrated they should look closely at possibly the most successful political campaign of modern times: that of Barack Obama. Make no mistake - remove the social media element of Obama's campaign and he would still be the junior senator from Illinois. Social media didn't just help the Obama campaign, it was the lifeblood of it.

Of course it is theoretically possible that the senior campaign personnel in our Northern Ireland political outfits know better than the world class political operators that run American presidential campaigns but really, is it likely? I think they themselves would probably admit that there is a gulf in class which begs the question; why not learn from them?

Politicians the world over know that nothing beats a personal vote. People like to know who they're voting for and that doesn't mean name recognition. It means that people like to feel as if they know the person on a personal basis. For years the best way for politicians to achieve this has been the traditional canvass and indeed, it is still essential. However, tools like Facebook and Twitter allow you to do this at any time and with none of the negative aspects that doorstepping can bring. So why wouldn't you?

I have been trying to compile a comprehensive list of all candidates for the Assembly and Local Elections. That's not so hard a task but when I try to locate Twitter & Facebook ID's or campaign websites it's not so easy. For me this represents a lack of forward thinking, competence and organisation from campaign directors in Northern Ireland. This info should be prominent on the party websites. If candidates don't have these accounts why is there no question as to why not?

It frustrates me that another election will go by where a large group of voters who are crying out for engagement will be once again ignored because the politicians of the day refuse to adapt and learn.


  1. Well I'm happy to use social media to plug myself and Clare Bailey, both Green Party candidates, both with Twitter, Facebook, blogs forums and websites at our fingertips.

    Some of the best and most productive debates I've had with people have been via social media - people are forced to let each other speak as you can't type over one another. Any party not interested in making the most of the information age is out of touch at best.


  2. Rebecca - Happy to point out that this was aimed squarely at the big 5!

  3. In think some politicians are perhaps a little too wary of making much repeated gaffs online and are willing to let this cloud their opinion of social networking. After all, it is just that - networking.

  4. I agree Rebecca but that then raises questions of competence!

  5. Being in a situation where you have to write your replies 'off the cuff' will not catch on with local Councillors. They tend to not take a public stance unless it is vetted by their Parties.

    You may tend to think that that comment is sarcastic or bitter... it is not. It is factual. I see it week in and week out at the Council. Before every meeting they group together to get instructions on what stance they are to take on every issue on the agenda.

    There is also the aspect that people can be more easily 'seen through' by their written word than their spoken word. With the spoken word you can gesture and mumble and double talk but not when the words go on paper.

  6. Austen, I don't think it is bitter, I think it's just am indicator of the poor calibre of many of our politicians. Why do the parties continue to select politicians who they don't trust to speak publically? The big 3 parties on the mainland don't have this problem and also know how to manage any controversy caused by someone speaking out of turn.

  7. I've actually noticed one or two people recently following me on twitter whose own accounts are private or protected. To me that is just as bad as not bothering in the first place as it immediately begs the question 'what have they got to hide?' Even if the answer turns out to be nothing, there's still that question of openness and transparency raised.

    I understand that some people might be wary of attracting trolls or spammers, but it's easy enough to block people, it shouldn't be a case of behind closed doors communication, it defeats the object of social networking.