Labour, digital and social media
Given the impromptu nature of the June 8th election, I think everyone involved in the campaign achieved amazing things. It was the most colourful, creative and classy campaign, drawn from hugely diverse sources. Nothing we do in terms of structure can ever be allowed to detract or subdue the quality we saw, or be allowed to curb this level of spontaneity. But things can always be better.
Against an opponent with apparently unlimited spending power, there are particular localised approaches which would make propagation and initiation of social media campaigns especially potent when aligned with Labour’s federal organisation. We need to embed this into the way that the federal structures of the party operate. Some of the main issues I observed:
- We had a number of online tools which CLPs did not propagate. The Coders for Labour group produced tools such as tax calculators and health spending lookup maps, in addition to the widely praised sites on education cuts and police cuts. But very few CLPs, using their main Twitter or Facebook accounts, managed to share the localised outputs of these with their followers. And developers, of course, should facilitate this.
- Candidate’s accounts were too ‘Greg Knight’. There’s nothing wrong in introducing local candidates via Facebook. However, the approach of Ed Miliband in Doncaster — where his character and humour were given free reign via his campaign page — was not generally replicated. We would need to get examples of best practice and develop a ‘style guide’ of sorts, to ensure each candidate gets the kind of social media which allows their own personas to emerge… to allow more genuine rapport.
- CLPs often seemed isolated from local campaigns. The manifesto provided a clear message on fracking, yet CLPs and candidate’s social media usually did not connect to this message in a local context. There will be a number of local issues which are within Labour’s policy scope, but for different reasons, are not central to Labour’s national campaign. CLPs need to join the dots.
- Events aren’t used as the basis for promotion. Putting Facebook events for even ‘non-events’ (eg Voting for XXX XXX on Thursday 8th June, All Day) are a way of generating free interest from activists, and can be used in combination with policy-based and other social media content to improve algorithm performance, including in pushing forward otherwise paid-for promoted content, including from regional or national sources.
- Can the ‘Socialist Societies’ become content providers? Labour has many, many Socialist Societies representing a huge variety of demographics and perspectives. For certain CLPs, these perspectives can be crucial in their relation to issues on the ground. Few of these socialist societies were able to contribute content to the June 2017 campaign. This may represent a lost opportunity, if not addressed.
All these aspects represent a lot of work — I would suggest making Digital Officers a Key Officer position (as defined by the LP rulebook).
It’s a role in a CLP which would require ongoing training and a big time commitment during an election, as well as a lot of sensitivity to what is appropriate etc. Given Tory ad spend we will always need major and diverse organic content, as well as central campaign and ‘movement NGO’ promotion. Adding a Digital Officer to each CLP means we put this as a top priority as an organisation — and support should be provided to them via MOOCs, online support, etc.
So just a few suggestions for now.