Digital election will test UK politics to the max

As election fever grips the UK, one term we’re beginning to hear more and more is “digital election”. With May 6 finally confirmed as the day the country goes to the polls, the influence of the digital crowd will be a critical part of the battle to avoid a hung parliament.

I’m sure that most of the digital community will find this part of the everyday role of overseeing brand reputation in the digital world. With social media becoming an everyday communications tool for consumers, the need to find conversation points online has never been more pressing.

However, what will be interesting is just how magnified the role of the Internet will become over the next month. With fears of a hung parliament hovering over the campaigning, many are pointing to the Internet as the place where the parties can manoeuvre best to win over uncertain voters.

I was fortunate enough to go to the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival last year where Barack Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe spoke.

He said Obama overcame being the “longest of political shots” to become the 44th president of the US by embracing the ability of the internet and emails to encourage voters to talk to each other.

“It wasn’t just an added bonus to use the internet and emails, but was core to who we were, it was in the DNA of the campaign from the very beginning,” he said.

Undoubtedly all three political parties will be looking to do the same this year. Already, we have seen them all take up e-mail marketing and microsite designs to lay out their core components of their election manifestos.

Buzz is also being created on social media. Twitter and Facebook are full of election talk (and Digital Economy Bill buzz too) and the parties are investing in search marketing as part of their campaign proposals too! Even the wives have come out on force online to back their men!

Perhaps even Bebo can play some sort of role as its parent company AOL decides its fate in the US (for those who think politically)?

Of course, I’m not saying that the TV ads and the DM pushes won’t have a purpose. If anything, the lack of the personal touch in the digital world (unless it’s a webcast) makes the grassroots action and the passionate TV address all the more important.

But used properly, the digital election can help to encourage a much more talked about general election that helps to create much comment and buzz surrounding politics.

Rather than just the politicians and their spin doctors doing all the talking, it’s an opportunity for us – the voters – to give the politicians the opportunity to reconnect with us by telling us what we want to know and how we can help the future of the country.

And perhaps at the end of it all, there will be lessons for all of us, and a timely reminder of the power of the Internet.

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