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Social media integral to election outcome

Article date: Thu, 15 Apr 2010 15:04 GMT

Lawrence Jones, MD of UKFast

As the first digital election gathers pace, UK party leaders must embrace social media to reach new audiences.

With Facebook and YouTube playing a significant role in Barack Obama's presidential campaign, the digital revolution has identified new platforms which have drastically changed the way in which politicians can carry out their campaigns.

As a growing number of under 35s shun newswires in search of online communities that share and vocalise their opinions, any successful political campaign must recognise this.

Lawrence Jones, MD of global hosting provider UKFast, said, "Twitter and Facebook have given the power back to the voters. They now have an arena in which to challenge party leaders and demand more from them.

"Because users are more concerned about engaging with each other, political parties have realised that they can now target vital votes by sparking online conversations."

It is due to this shift that key party leaders, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg have announced that they will not only take part in three historic television debates, but will also participate in a series of interactive debates through Facebook and You Tube.

While not altogether new for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who boasts the greatest number of Facebook friends and has used Twitter to announce policies and debate with voters, this alternative platform will encourage users to challenge all three party leaders.

Labour's appointment of Andrew Stott as director of digital engagement and Kerry McCarthy as 'Twitter Tsar' demonstrates a significant shift in focus towards social media. However, as with any digital footprint the parties must take heed of the dangers it brings.

With Labour election candidate Stuart MacLennan the latest victim to fall foul of inappropriate Tweets, maintaining a strict online reputation management policy throughout the election is essential.

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