It looks like all reporting of new media innovation in the election campaign by the MSM is now being seen through the same yellow prism of all their other reporting i.e. look for things that make the Liberal Democrats look good/bad and get it in the paper. In the last week we’ve seen breathless reporting of increased searches for ‘Nick Clegg’, increased online donations to the Lib Dems and a boost in members of the Lib Dem Facebook group. That’s in between the Daily Mail stories on Nazis and his parentage!
All this is interesting to a point but is a function of a wider political story that’s reflected in popularity indicators online. It tells us nothing about how clever the Lib Dems are/are not being online and what is working. Lots of PR/social media commentators are bemoaning the fact it isn’t really an internet election and that none of the parties are ‘engaging’ or ‘innovating’ properly online. It’s not as good as Obama they say.
But in Labour’s case they’re nearly all missing the point, just as most of them miss the point about Obama’s campaign.
The ‘sexy’ stuff is largely under the hood. And it’s working. Really well. And business and not-for-profit organisations can learn from it.
Labour recently launched an iPhone app. The initial version was all designed using feedback from its most active online campaigners as the objective on this and everything else Labour is doing in the new media campaign is to produce real world outcomes. That’s why the whole iPhone app was packed with functionality that enabled/motivated them to get out on the doorstep, make phone calls and attending events.
A second wave was launched last week following further requests from the coalface. The learning is if you want to mobilise large numbers of people in a network to do things for you then you need to involve them. Labour has introduced a lot of innovations to mobilise and motivate their network; involving them in designing products, decision making and briefing them on content and news. This is one such example and it’s contributed to some extremely strong success measures. The irreverent and hugely popular website, PopBitch has rated Labour’s iPhone app the most successful out of the main parties in this area.
But also look at the response out in the real world. At a time when you could argue that it’s harder to get people out slogging and making the case for Labour, new media is being used as a motivator, an intelligence tool and a way of helping people share a message with their contacts. Look at the numbers from week one of the campaign: approximately 300,000 a week versus approx. 100,000 a week in 2005, 60,000 phone calls made through the virtual phonebank tool and the number of people sharing the manifesto was also extremely high i.e 60,000 people viewed the manifesto online and 50,000 downloaded the PDF version. Compare this with 8,000 in 2005 going to buy the old paper version.
These figures show that it’s working and the incentive is there to modify it to go much further and deeper.