Political parties and political institutions are trying to connect with people by using online channels. WebCameron or the Downing Street You Tube site (http://www.youtube.com/downingst) are relatively new initiatives and the Conservative party is advertising on Facebook, however UK online political advertising is a long way behind the USA. Recent elections in the US have made significant use of the internet and You Tube is being used to show the Presidential debates.
It will be interesting to see how the internet is used in any forthcoming UK election. The previous election was still dominated by posters and traditional advertising, but the development of Web 2.0 channels coupled with the all party agreement not to use outdoor for political campaigning means online strategy could be a significant factor. (In 1979 the ‘Britain isn’t working’ poster captured the public mood, will the next election be defined by an online campaign?)
Numbers will have to grow significantly though for the current sites and profiles to have any real influence. With the exception of Tony Blair’s congratulation message to new French president Nicolas Sarkozy (which generated over 500,000 views on You Tube) messages from the main political parties online are yet to generate significant traffic - films by David Cameron on WebCameron or Gordon Brown on the Downing St site are often measured in hundreds rather than thousands. Interestingly Boris Johnson seems to be the star attraction on WebCameron – the number of people signed up on ‘Boris for Mayor’ Facebook Groups is also very impressive!
The attempts of the main UK political parties to utilise new channels are admirable and they should be applauded for their efforts to use the new opportunities available to them. However, the numbers of viewers are low and parties will need to be posting more inspirational and more relevant messages if they want to successfully use these channels to connect / re-connect with disaffected, young voters. Single issue movements like the Green movement are using the internet successfully (eg David de Rothschild organising the Second Life flood) whereas the main UK parties seem to persist with uploading soundbites and speeches from politicians in suits, not necessarily the best way to connect with younger audiences – unless your name is Boris Johnson!