Sunday, 4 May 2008

London Mayor election online - web strategy and internet developments

The London Mayor election was the first UK election where the internet had significant influence. I have written about various aspects of the online campaigns previously and thought I would summarise some of the key developments here.

Boris Johnson had the most developed online campaign. Much has been made of his election strategist, Lynton Crosby, employing a “doughnut strategy” of ruthlessly targeting Tory-leaning voters on the edge of the capital (see here for more), but below are 5 examples of online activity in the London Mayor election which are also notable:

1) London Mayor election - online hustings and questioning

Whilst there were a number of official broadcast debates, various online initiatives sought to question the candidates and engage them in a more intimate environment. YouTube was less influential than it has been in the US elections, but the principle of users posting questions online for candidates to respond to was seen in a number of places - from live webchats with the Sun (where Boris suggested he would re-look at the smoking ban) through to more structured online hustings seen on sites like Yoosk.

Yoosk London Mayor online forum (click for larger image)

2) YouGov's London Mayor election online polls proved to be more accurate than the traditional polling methods

The London Mayor election saw controversy around polls and polling methods with YouGov and IPSOS / MORI having a public debate about methodology and Ken Livingstone's campaign making an official complaint about the YouGov polls - SkyNews covered this here.

YouGov conducted six polls (using their online panels) and always showed Boris Johnson with a lead - ranging from 6% to 12%. This went against some of the other more traditional, telephone based polling of rival companies which showed a much smaller lead for Boris and at one point showed Ken Livingstone ahead by 4 points. The final YouGov poll published on Thursday morning (voting day) exactly predicted the actual result with Boris winning by 53-47%. This has prompted a press release entitled 'YouGov [online poll] gets it exactly right in Mayoral election' and offers to 'help the inquest into inaccurate telephone polls.' (full release can be seen on the Adam Boulton blog).

3) London Mayor candidates use of online media

All candidates used online extensively and social media was prominent. We saw London Mayor candidates using Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and blogs. London Mayor candidates (with the exception of Boris) also had Google strategies (see here) and well developed campaign websites. (3 days after the election Ken Livingstone's 'Vote Ken' Google campaign is still running though...........)

The online activity supporting Boris Johnson was the most well thought out and I thought the emails sent on Wednesday and Thursday were a nice touch (even if they did get marked as 'spam' by my Gmail.)

Boris Johnson email with links to his profiles on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook
(click for larger image)

4) The LondonElects website was a great success was set up to encourage voter turn out and to provide a central, neutral, online focus point for the London Mayor election. From running an initiative to find (and part fund) an independent candidate through to offering consolidated results analysis once the election had finished, gained over 1 million visits and contributed to record voter turnout.
LondonElects website homepage (click for larger image)

5) London Mayor election Buzz tracking

A number of companies have tried to show case their products by applying Buzz Tracking to the London Mayor race. Systems like 'Opinion Tracker' or QDOS kept track of online buzz around the candidates and published their results. Other traffic analysis companies like Hitwise also published insight on respective candidates web traffic.

It was also possible to gain insightful information from sites like Google Trends that show you the volume of people searching for a particular candidates name:

Google Trends analysis of volume of searches for each candidate (click for larger image)

My first post about the London Mayor election predicted that it would see a new style on online campaigning in the UK
( and I think the London Mayor candidates' online campaigns were comprehensive. I don't think it is any coincidence that the most well developed internet campaign belonged to Boris Johnson, the winning candidate.

In future UK elections I expect to see online activity further developed with increased use of behavioural targeting and opportunities such as Facebook messages targeted to users in line with their political preferences. The London Mayor campaign was a testing ground for a number of online strategies and I think the internet will be a major battleground in the next UK general election.

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