There were lots of predictions that the 2010 UK general election would see social media, viral videos and the like dominate as the internet became a key battleground - however, the digital battleground seems to be in my email inbox more than anywhere else!
Conservative and Labour parties are using Google ads (no ads on any other search engine), they are trying to use video (notably the Conservatives pushing to the WebCameron channel) and there are Facebook Fan Pages (LibDems and Conservatives leading with about 80,000 fans each) - but the email war has been running constantly.
Email is the digital equivalent of having a candidate flyer pushed through your letterbox, but it (arguably) takes less effort, has a far wider footprint and doesn't have the printing / distribution costs associated with traditional doordropping. The database therefore becomes the key electoral tool. Emails vary in topic, from campaign news to personal appeals from key spokespeople to 'personal' contacts from the leaders.
The LibDems send round a weekly update called LD2010, reaching out to supporters and pushing them to act:
George Osbourne emulates this with his weekly campaign update:
Nick Clegg has emailed me:
and I have also had a 'Personal Contract' sent to me by David Cameron:
and the most recent email is from George Osbourne again, urging supporters to make a final push:
George Osbourne email 'don't pause for breath until the polling stations are shut'
(click for larger image)
(click for larger image)
As well as campaign updates and 'vote for us' appeals, these emails contain links to videos, donation pages, Facebook campaigns etc. There is no point running social / digital initiatives if they go unpromoted. The Conservatives have had the budget to run extensive paid search activity, but like the LibDems have also embraced regular email contact to continually push messages and online initiatives (all directly to the voter without running the risk of having to push things via journalists and news channels.)
When everyone is 'talking social', it's easy to forget the power of email to highlight messages and connect with voters / consumers in the personal space of their inbox. Yes the TV debates were crucial in this election, but email has played a more prominent role than Facebook etc in keeping the campaigns going. History will no doubt overlook the campaign contribution of email, but it has been one of the key weapons in the parties' digital armouries.
* NB I signed up for the Labour email list too. I assume they are using it too, but I have not received anything......
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