Social Reform: Case Study of the Liberal Democrats and New Media
When the Liberal Democrats wanted to engage more with constituents in the marginal seat of Hornsey and Wood Green in North London, it turned to new media to help promote its sitting MP, Lynne Featherstone.
By Chris Lee
Political parties are no strangers to social media; indeed, they have traditionally been early adopters. For example, the Downing Street Twitter feed is the 49th most popular in the world, the second most popular political stream after President Barack Obama’s. The Conservative Party, similarly, operates a number of online engagement programmes, such as MyConservatives, which enables party supporters to help their candidates.
At the recent Social Media 09 exhibition the Liberal Democrats’ former “Head of Innovations”, Mark Pack, explained to delegates about how the party had completely rejuvenated the website of one of its MPs, Lynne Featherstone, to help her better engage with her constituents.
Featherstone’s seat of Hornsey and Wood Green is marginal, held by a lead of just 2,000 over the Labour Party at the last election. The party had built Featherstone’s first website in 1999 and had engaged in piecemeal social media engagement, Pack explained, including a blog, and Flickr and YouTube sites since then.
“There were several challenges,” Pack said. “Firstly, we had to bring together the existing website, blog, Flickr and YouTube sites and position the move so that it generated positive media coverage. We also had to work out how we reached dispersed audiences and control our content.”
Content creation was a key part of the project, Pack added. “As the saying goes; the only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it,” he said.
The team decided that a new website would be needed which would pull together all the disparate new media sites onto one platform. WordPress was chosen as the platform to build the website LynneFeatherstone.org on, Pack said, as it’s robust, search engine-friendly and comes with a number of useful plug-ins, such as social sharing options.
Stream of Consciousness
The site includes a ‘lifestream’ – a real-time update of what Featherstone is doing with her constituency, Parliament and elsewhere. This brings together her own diary inputs, plus updates from her Twitter stream and other news stories relevant to Hornsey and Wood Green. The social options also invite visitors to become friends with Lynne Featherstone MP on Facebook.
Pack said that the project has thrown up some interesting stats. For example, he found that 75 per cent of visitors preferred blogs to news and that the blog received 20 per cent more comments than its predecessor. The team also added geocoding into YouTube video, as they found that to be more effective in terms of boosting views.
The site has seen a major increase in visitors compared to before and has brought Featherstone and her constituents closer together, Pack said. “Return on investment doesn’t have to be just about decimal points,” he concluded.