David Cameron could have won an outright majority had his party fully learned the lessons from the Obama presidential campaign, according to a study by Tamar

Its Political Search Index asserts that the UK's political parties missed an opportunity to win over more voters through online engagement, and that a more personalised approach could have yielded better results. 

The Index criticises the two main party leaders for failing to use Twitter to engage personally with the voting public, though Nick Clegg (or his team) did manage to do this, and tweeted regularly in the run-up to the election, at least ten times a day. 

While all the parties had some kind of presence on social media sites, the report states that they were slow to establish a presence on YouTube and Facebook, though these accounts did attract decent user numbers. 

It is the lack of personal engagement on the part of the party leaders which the report is particularly critical of, as using an individual voice and clear, personalised messaging may have been more effective.

I asked Mark Hanson, who worked on Labour's online campaign, for his view on the research. He argues that the value of Labour's online campaign was inits effect on offline campaigning:

If Tamar had studied the Obama election a little more closely they would have known that it was the number of people that new media helped mobilise to go out knocking on doors for Obama that was the real success story of that election, not the number of friends on Facebook.

Labour used new media to mobilise more people than ever before to knock on doors for us - three times the number of contacts than in the run up to the 2005 election - amounting to half a million doorstep conversations per week during the short campaign. These conversations played a large role in us winning seats like Rochdale and Chesterfield and holding on to seats like Hammersmith, Westminster North and Oxford East - thus depriving the Tories of an overall majority.  

Graham Charlton

Published 24 May, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (3)


Neil Jackson

Every success at online political engagement is welcomed and we identified some of those during our four Political Search Index reports. The Obama online campaign was breathtaking in its reach and engagement, not only creating a new constituency but also proving extraordinarily effective at responding to voters’ concerns.

We were surprised at the lack of leadership engagement online and our research indicated that the online campaigns of all the major parties kicked into action later than expected, with subsequent lack of traction in the social networks.

Our research, which is ongoing, looked at key aspects of search and social media, finding gaps in connection, conversation and conversion over seven months up to the General Election, which we would describe as a missed opportunity.

about 8 years ago

Ruth Weatherill

Ruth Weatherill, Business Development Manager at York St John University

'surprised at the lack of leadership engagement' did we just fail to engage with the leaders offline as well as online?

about 8 years ago


Paul Bates

The parties may have dabbled in personal media this election but clearly nobody did enough. The fundamental point to remember is that throwing out content at random on to the Internet doesn’t work. Parties have to find a way of motivating the electorate using the right channel of communication; mobilising people to knock on doors is clearly effective but an election is about reaching out to the entire population, not just a handful of those who answer the door. The aim should be to create and build loyal followers or influencers, so that they in turn pass on the message to their friends and other social networks.

about 8 years ago

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