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Search & Social Media in the Dutch Elections, Part 2: YouTube

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It's election time in Holland at the moment. Because Holland is regarded as one of the countries that's leading the way when it comes to online, it's interesting to see how the Dutch are using search and social media in the elections.

In part one, we looked at how Twitter has been used in the elections. Today, we'll mainly focus on YouTube. But first, let's revisit Twitter.

Useless Twitter Debate

Last time I noted that Holland was trying out Twitter debates through the website of a national newspaper. The concept was simple: voters asked questions on Twitter, and candidates answered using Ustream.

Dutch Twitter DebateLast Wednesday, however, we saw a whole new phenomenon: Twitter debating where everybody was on Twitter. On the website of a Dutch broadcaster, candidates and Twitter users were joined. Everybody could ask questions using "#rtldebat." The topic got so much attention it trended worldwide.

But the debate? Honestly, that was pretty useless. The tweets went too fast and were mostly unreadable.

It never became a real discussion. Candidates even decided to call it a night halfway through the debate. The idea was nice, but it showed Twitter wasn't made for that kind of debating.

YouTube Debate

Now let's look at YouTube. The Dutch are following the U.S. and U.K. examples here. The Dutch national broadcaster, NOS, is organizing the final debate on Tuesday (elections are this Wednesday).

For that debate, users can send in questions using YouTube. The best questions will be featured in the debate Tuesday where the candidates will have to answer them.

Again, the idea is nice. But if you look at the YouTube channel, there aren't that many questions. Even the number of channel views isn't that high. As of last the writing of this column, it was just below 50,000 views.

Besides that, real "average" Dutch web users aren't sending in the questions. Sure, there are some there, but I picked out a couple of well-known Internet marketers already. So it doesn't seem to attract new users.

The Candidates and Parties on YouTube

So what are the candidates doing on YouTube? Have they embraced the video site?

Dutch Elections YouTubeThe party leading in the polls, the VVD, has used YouTube in the campaign. They have put up several videos in which their candidates addressed an issue. Those videos were each viewed about 200 times.

At first, that seems good, but the VVD used it like old media: sending out their message. They made the videos and decided on the topics. There was nothing interactive or social about it.

Apart from that, like with many other parties, their YouTube channel is filled with commercials. It's all about sending out the message.

The CDA (conservatives) party, which has been the biggest in the last decade, isn't doing anything different. On their YouTube channel, you'll only find interviews with candidates and short statements.

About the same goes for the democrats (D66), left wingers Groen Links, and right wingers PVV. It's all one big ad for the parties.

One party, the PvdA, the Dutch Labour, takes a few extra steps. First, they have a daily "news item" with their candidate for prime minister. But they do another nice thing: they're actually answering questions asked on Twitter using a YouTube video. A direct response to the voters!

What the Parties Should Have Done

The parties could (should?) have actually communicated with the voters. Don't sit in your office talking to a camera. Go outside with your camera, talk to the people, and answer their questions.

And none of the parties came up with the idea of using video responses to address real issues. A simple search on one of the big topics discussed gives back loads of videos that candidates could have reacted to, but didn't.

So, the Dutch candidates obviously thought they needed to use YouTube, but (as with Twitter) they're using it like old media. And that's a shame. They could have done so much more.


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