The increasing use of social media in political campaigning in Europe became especially visible in France’s last elections (Royal vs. Sarkozy), but in the US they really have it down to a fine art. Right now in the US, with the race on for the 2008 presidential elections, everyone seems to be using social technology, such as YouTube, as part of their campaigns. The reason behind this is that the internet has created a platform for ‘openess’, enabling people to ‘get to know’ candidates before voting for them, exemplified by the Senator John Edwards‘ podcast run on Pod Tech.
My search to find examples of social media at work in European politics wasn’t that fruitful – a blog here, a video there – except maybe for David Cameron and his ‘WebCameron’. Instead I stumbled across an interesting US example from CNN.com entitled Netroots activism arrives.
Netroots activism, as the name suggests, stems from a fusion of the terms ‘Internet’ and ‘Grassroots’ to reflect the new age technique of political participation. Coined in the United States, the term is used mainly in left-leaning circles.
Starting up a blog or subscribing to Facebook, is all good and well, especially if the material you post is sensationalist, but if it’s not and you want to create impact, there needs to be a strategy to push it through to the correct target audiences, as Forrester’s recent research on Social Technographics points out.
With tactics like a ‘blogswarm’ (I know! – who makes up these names?), which is a situation in which thousands of bloggers comment on the same subject at the same time; an issue or event can become the “hot topic” of the day in both the blogosphere and mainstream media and as a result, a strong source of influence.
A US Netroots event is actually taking place as I write and ends on the 5 August. It’s the YearlyKos Convention, a political convention, organized by readers and writers of Daily Kos, an influential American political blog. YearlyKos took place for the first time last year – this year the convention is entitled “Building a Netroots Nation”.
Sen. Hillary Clinton will be joining the Presidential Leadership Forum being held on Saturday August 4, along with Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Bill Richardson, and Sen. Christopher Dodd. It will be the first ever collaborative presidential forum with both a respected blogger and a leading member of the traditional media as moderators. You can get a chance to see the forum broadcast via CNN and C-Span.
YearlyKos will also have a Netroots gathering in the virtual world of Second Life, complete with live streaming video of key events, interactive breakout sessions, and exclusive Second Life-only sessions. Register for YKSL (YearlyKos Second Life) via the web or Second Life: www.yearlykosconvention.org/yksl.
Now all that remains is for the grass to properly take root over here in Europe. A good article reviewing the uptake of social media in politics – US vs. UK – is from an article in The Telegraph entitled Can I Depend on Your Click?; and another from The Guardian on how two political bloggers from the UK are turning to the US for tips on successful campaigning and fundraising strategies.