Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Will this prove to be Scotland’s first social media election?

The Labour Party iphone app was the first iPhone app released by a political party:

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The Labour Party app has been available on iTunes since Jan 25th 2011 and the android version since. Source

Now something that started as nothing more than an interesting idea in the mind of a California techie has now become one of the most unusual and innovative campaigning tools ever to be used in a British election.

    It is the iPhone app – or, in the context of the Scottish election campaign, it is the new canvassing app being used by both Labour and the SNP. Its premise is ludicrously simple, but it could prove to be dauntingly efficient.

Any activist, standing anywhere in Scotland, can use the app to tell them exact details of all the households around them: the names and ages of the voters and, crucially, whether or not they have been canvassed yet.

For the SNP, the party member then downloads a canvassing questionnaire and checks the latest news, all pinged to their smartphone through the app, and goes knocking on the doors – only those, though, that need to be done.

Labour has one that is similar – and while neither party is claiming that the app will win the election, it is symptomatic of a campaigning style that has developed into line with new technology like never before.

Indeed, Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive, believes that this year’s Scottish election represents a whole new era in campaigning, and will be the first, full-scale digital campaign in British electoral history.

“This will be the first social media election,” said Mr Murrell said. “We have all tried before but even during last year’s Westminster campaign the opportunity wasn’t quite there. The Tories spent a lot of money on social media last year but the country wasn’t quite ready. This year it is,” he said.

During last year’s campaign in Scotland, the BBC recorded a leaders’ debate in the afternoon and then broadcast it later that day. BBC managers asked all those in the audience not to tweet from the hall and to keep silent until the broadcast itself. That ban held.

Mr Murrell does not believe a similar ban would work this year because so many people are on Twitter and so many are on Facebook. As a result of the sheer numbers using social media regularly, he believes it would be almost inevitable that someone would use it to leak details from a debate."

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