Back in August, I tossed up a quick survey of the social media tools being used by the major political parties in the United Kingdom. This is a topic of high interest to me: The use of social media by large citizen groups is where the rubber meets the road in any examination of the real-world effects of new media on the structure and operation of government. In August the proposed election was still months away; now we have less than three weeks to go until the polls open May 6. It seems like a good time to revisit those sites and see what’s going on. Quite a lot, it turns out.
By US standards, British election campaigns are compressed, high-intensity contests that attempt to rally large numbers of voters in a short period of time—excellent testbeds for social media deployment. There’s evidence that all the major contestants are devoting increasing time and resources to online outreach, and that the public is responding to the efforts. Alexa offers an interesting perspective on the election. The web-traffic tracking site suggests a close race. Here’s the Alexa Traffic Rank of the Tories, Labour, the LibDems and the Greens as of Sunday afternoon:
I note that traffic has climbed sharply at all four sites as the election draws closer, which is to be expected, and I also notice that traffic at the Liberal Democrats site exploded last week, this apparently because of a widely remarked-upon performance by party leader Nick Clegg during last week’s televised debate.
Here’s the Labour online community. This is Conservative Future, which sure looks like an online community to me, and here’s Craig Elder’s (excellent) blog; he’s the Tory online community editor. I attempted to register with a couple of communities, but the templates require a postal code and reject non-UK applicants. I’m reaching out to a couple of people to see if I can find a way in; anyone with good contacts across the water who might be able to expedite things will have my gratitude.
Another crude-but-useful metric is Twitter follower-counts. Here’s a comparison of the party follower numbers from this weekend to the numbers from August:
Conservative Party: 11,035–-27,030
Liberal Democrats: 4,358—14,318
Green Party: 4,218—9,516
British National Party: 883—2,180
Scottish National Party: n/a—806
UK Independence Party: 138—669
* Combined followers of Labour’s two Twitter accounts. I still think it’s unwise to split the audience with two accounts.
I’d like to conduct brief email interviews with the SM people managing some of the above sites and blog about them here, but it’s possible everyone is too busy at the moment to stop and talk. Perhaps I can collect some after-action insight once the election is concluded.