3 British social media specialists actively involved in politics

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Parallel Session II: Parties, campaigns and representation: the political impact of blogs and social media


Iain Dale, Ian Dale’s Diary

Andrew Rasiej, Personal Democracy Forum

Matthew McGregor, Blue State Digital

Chair: Helen Margetts, Oxford University

The outcome of political careers and even campaigns is increasingly dependent on the successful mastery of new communication tools including social media. Many MPs and members of Congress are embracing the use of social networking tools to keep in touch with their constituents, whilst Facebook, YouTube and even Twitter have potentially changed the nature of election campaigns in reaching out directly to grass-roots supporters, with the recent US presidential campaign also showing how effective these tools might be in raising funds. At the same time, it is not clear whether these tools are likely to prove effective in engaging any voters except those who are already interested in politics, or whether their apparent ‘democratisation’ of traditional party structures is to be believed.

Andrew Rasiej

Talking about how the Democratic Party learned about ‘sociable’ media (before YouTube etc.)  Now 9/10 political videos are generated by voters not politicians.  Ecology of politics has changed.

Matthew McGregor

Develop a strategy before launching into tools.  British vs American politics.  No rock star politician.  Engagement – real relationship – two way, transparent, authentic.   Forward movement  – transparent [interesting definition].   Use of Bo.com to protest against BO.  Hope not hate – giving a say, things to do, resources to use  Did I hear 125K to 800K.  Putting people to work.    Online tools on bo.com allowing us to call from home.  Comm Worker Union – helped them engage with TNT ees directly to protest takeover of Royal Mail.  Be part of the process.  No ghost writers.  Timely.  Action oriented.  Ppl don’t want to be passive recipients.   Boring on TV is boring on YouTube.  Social media is not a panacea for  problems faced by politicians.

Iain Dale

Politicians don’t know their RSS from their elbow.

A politician has a blog [!] [hopefully not the one I read!].  All 3 parties do not understand – they transmit.  The B N P do it seems.

News might originate created on internet and are likely to be negative.  Fail to understand they can bypass mainstream internet.

Conservative Party now requires campaigning and exposure to open caucuses.  Existing blogs are useful.  Likely to be the difference between being selected or not.  [But would it be enough?].  Email still the most important.  Ppl easily contactable by email now.  16000 constituents important.

Parties may try to get bloggers to do negative campaining -do dirty work for them.  Quoting the Cons Speech against Brown in EU parliament [gee, that made me think Conservatives don’t have a clue]

All large public purchases will be put on internet.


City Uni.  : Commenting BO campaign up-down or down-up.  Matthew McGregor – autonomy to organize own events.  And marked with red (staff) blue (volunteers).  Most people don’t see red pins <5%.  In Britain, worried whether all sorts of people would turn out.  But not direct democracy – BO listens but doesn’t take direction.

Helen Magretts: ?

AR. Bottom up and top down not exclusive.  Material spread because ppl want to spread it.   Flood the zone -he with most links wins.  Empower supporters to run campaigns on his behalf.

Iain Dale.

Political parties exist because  they want to dominate.  But opinion on internet cannot be dominated.

… McCarthy ..  new media chief … 2000 followers on Twitter.

?? Life after death for Howard Dean .  .. has read the 1200 page health bill.  Any resurrection  .  .

Andrew R.   Hasn’t really embraced the internet. Internet is a reflection of what happens in  real life.

Matthew McGregor.  Howard Dean didn’t spend a lot of time on internet himself but got resources to put tools in hands in the “states”.  Got ppl engaged online and gave them the tools to go offline.

Iain Dale.

John Redgwood -blog on world economic crisis. Several posts a aday.  Blog is a platform.

Andrew R.

Howard Dean would be a leader if he demanded the health bill was put on line.


?? Negative politics.

Iain Dale.  Somebody trying to use bloggers to spread rumours.  Exercised [moral imagination] and comment/debates was positive.

Matthew McGregor.  Try to help people find information they need.  Direct people to the right site and have tools to use.

Help people get to the right information.

Lib Dem tried to use these tactics negatively.


??  Media studies in Unis approached sociologically and psychologically.   Only 50% voted last time.   Politicians tried to by pass media.  What’s new?

Andrew R.  Political parties must become media organizations.   Moderate turnout is a function of education as much as politics. Politicians target just those who will vote.

Iain Dale.  61% last time.  People also knew who would win.  Higher turnout expected. 450 people turned up to an open caucus.  [ Seems to be big for Bedford and were mobilized by  a candiate of a ‘minority’ candidate.]  If big donations will be banned, where will money come from?  BO’s great success was raising money.  Hard to donate to political parties in UK.

Andrew.  BO also raised a lot of money traditionally. Must build community first.

Iain.  Sponsored diet by blog readers.  5K.

Chair: Blog isn’t formal.

Matthew : just because parties are bad at it, doesn’t mean that it won’t be successful.

Andrew.  Ron Paul. Made donations public in real time.


Disadvantaged consumers.  Third sector -what can it learn from polticians.

Burlesconi [sp?] – must continue to campaign.  2 universes – campaigning mode –

Andrew -govt must be present where we are – on the internet [and elsewhere] BO is using scarcity media.  Needs to build dialogue as he did during the campaign.   only thing that needs to change is must change email address.

Iain Dale.  NGO’s -directors don’t have blogs.

Matthew – charities – don’t just ask for money -should then ask for story – emotional investment – emotional attachment.  Don’t see peopelas ATM’s.


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