Lib Dem chief executive champions party's social media efforts
LONDON - The Liberal Democrats' use of social media has put them in an 'Oscar Wilde' world, according to their chief executive Chris Fox.
Chris Fox: Lib Dems' 'soft sell' approach with social media
Speaking yesterday about his party's experience with social media at an event organised by media monitoring service Echo Sonar, Fox commented that parties should be relaxed about the medium.
Taking the view that a political party can state its message, but not control where it goes once it is public, Fox said: "Philosophically, once you relax about that you're in an Oscar Wilde world, because people are talking about you. What's worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you."
He referred to the #NickCleggsFault hashtag which trended globally on Twitter, a satirical reaction to media coverage of the Liberal Democrat leader. The trend started when someone hit their toe, claiming it was Nick Clegg's fault. When others picked up on the joke, it continued to spiral as other Twitter users added their own twist on the joke.
"The public sourcing and other phenomena are things beyond our control, and if we did try and create them, they wouldn't exist," Fox said.
He compared the general election campaign to social media in American elections: what the Liberal Democrats learnt in the past four weeks is what their American counterparts have months to practice and perfect, and using social networking as a medium has been key to getting their message across.
The Liberal Democrats' page has been ranked as the most popular party page on Facebook, and Nick Clegg's Facebook fans have risen from 4,531 on 6 April to 43,963 on 24 April.
"We made a big effort around Nick's Facebook site in terms of broadcasting things, getting people to participate, making people feel they are part of something. The main thing was offering people the opportunity to participate in something they couldn't do somewhere else," said Fox.
He continued: "What the [digital] channel gives is an entirely new way of opening up lines of communication."
Social media has allowed the Lib Dems to see peoples' responses and voters to air their opinions, which Fox believes is perhaps the reason so many people have an interest in his party.
Where campaign pamphlets rely on postal feedback forms for comments, social networking has allowed parties to see the reaction instantaneously.
Key to gaining support from undecided voters, the party took a soft sell approach with their Act network, launched in November last year. Instead of pressuring visitors to their website to join the party, the Lib Dems set up a social network section for people to discuss their policies without being party members.
Fox was unsure social networking will be used in future elections but said there was a lot to learn from how it was used from this campaign.
"I think we're still in a learning process, and I think when we look back we'll be better at using online tools and have a better feel, in retrospect, of what worked."
"I can guarantee it will be different. But I'm not sure how different."
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