What did the General Election tell us about the use of online communications? What does it indicate for wider engagement with communities online?
When the last General Election was fought Youtube was three months old and Facebook and Twitter were not around.
There will also be a lot of talk about the photoshopping of political posters. Both Conservatives and Labour had their election posters spoofed heavily in this campaign. In the last few days personalised online videos were circulated by some parties. These were similar to some tools used in the Barack Obama campaign of 2008.
It was clear this time that all these tools were heavily used. But were they mainly used by the highly political and the internet savvy to conduct a conversation amongst themselves? Did much of this really reach out to the less politically committed? Post-election academic surveys and polls will no doubt tell us more
On Polling Day up to a million people used a simple tool on Facebook to simply say they had voted. Did this form of social proof encourage others to also vote? Does this have lessons for other community engagement in future? The Democracy UK on Facebook Page also had a quarter of a million people liking it. These were significant indicators of increased online communications.
What was the perhaps the biggest change in this campaign. Instead of web 2.0 was it perhaps a far wider usage of web 1.0 tools?
Humble email which has been used in campaigns for the whole of the last decade suddenly seemed to be used as the main tool for public communications. Some candidates reported a far greater number of email sent to them by members of the public than in previous campaigns.
Perhaps we should conclude that, in our rush to look at the latest techniques, do we forget the timescale in the diffusion of innovations. Are the tools some people took for granted in 2000 only now becoming ubiquitous?
Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company