Social media is the buzz phrase du jour. As a phrase it covers a wide variety of online tools that are used for sharing and commenting on information and entering into online ‘conversations’ and ‘communities’. The best known of these include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Posterous and of course blogging tools like WordPress (that this blog is written on).
However, what is particularly interesting with regards to the election is that it wasn’t a mainstream activity when we last voted our MPs in. Over the last few years it that has grown dramatically and is no longer talked about just by geeks. Nowadays many, if not most people, use one form of social media or another.
One of the great advantages of it, at least according to supporters, is that it democratises access to debates and movements – if you have an internet connection you can join in. You can become a respected and influential commentator based on the quality of your comment and not the position you hold – and even if you don’t start the debate you can easily join in (by posting comments, tagging, ReTweeting etc). It is mainly through social media that we now have many more ‘citizen journalists’.
For politicians it allows them to ‘knock on doors’ electronically and can be a powerful and exciting tool if used correctly. Not all of them get it yet, but many do.
However, it also provides everyone with the opportunity to hold our elected representatives to account. Many people have blogged about the expenses scandal and I’m sure many more will blog about their views of the main parties, of candidates, of policies and of the behaviour of people on the campaign trail.
So given the power of social media to hand more power to the people – will it decide the next election?
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