Claims from Social Media Affairs that Labour has less support among bloggers than the Tories should not, perhaps, be too great a surprise in the current climate.
Yet the report has inspired a number of rebuttals. An offshoot of Social Media Library, a directory for the public relations industry which seems not to get social media, it is fair to say that for all its fancy graphs this report is without value.
I’ve discussed elsewhere that social media isn’t about numbers. It’s not about broadcasting a message to an audience, but actually engaging with that audience. Labour’s candidate for the marginal constituency of Manchester Withington, Lucy Powell, has good examples of social media at work.
A form of political activism, there are a number of good reasons why those who blog and tweet are not particularly representative. Social Media Affairs reckon the BNP is the most talked about party on Twitter, but we don’t know if that’s through their own efforts or those of the Hope Not Hate campaign. It is certainly true that blogging has long appealed to those who believe that what they call mainstream media is hopelessly biased. That is, blogs provide an outlet for reactionaries and we should expect a reforming Labour government to provoke their bile.
What matters most is what the parties have done to establish a new media infrastructure; something less ephemeral and more reliable than a couple of blogs.
Having faced constant criticism for being behind, Labour has gone beyond YouTube channels and Twitter updates to be genuinely innovative with LabourSpace and a virtual phone bank. Much more is on the way, while the Conservatives, convinced the new media is theirs, rest on their laurels. These are the kind of insights an outfit like Social Media Affairs should offer its clients.