Mark Hanson, Labour's new media strategist and former associate editor of LabourHome.org, wangled me an invitation to a formal review of how digital media innovations had changed UK Election 2010. The invitation-only event was hosted by the Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) on the evening of May 13 and held in London at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).
I felt like a kid in a candy store.
The event was held at RSA House. Designed by Robert Adam in the early 1770s, the historic home of the RSA has been the intellectual and social home of some of the greatest thinkers and social activists since the Enlightenment.
The event also featured top speakers from the digital leadership of all three parties, key media commentators, and online experts from the United States. It was chaired by Charlie Beckett, the Director of POLIS.
From the UK, speakers included Stella Creasy, Labour MP in Walthamstow. Also speaking were the senior strategists behind the online campaigns from the three main parties: Hanson, Conservative's Craig Elder, online communities editor at the Conservative Party, and Lib Dem's Mark Pack Head of Digital at Mandate Communications and co-editor Liberal Democrat Voice.
The audience was made up of more than 200 people who had been responsible for the most creative and high impact uses of digital media during the campaign. If you want to check out their tweets from the event, conduct a Twitter search for #pdfge2010.
In my humble opinion, Creasy stole the show. Others had opinions; she shared actual examples.
As Benjamin Ellis (@benjaminellis), Sumeet Vermani (@SumeetV), Steve Lawson (@solobasssteve), Judith Clegg (@judithclegg), Swatee (@Swatee), and Vote Clegg Get Clegg (@Coalitionuk) all tweeted, Creasy said, "I picked up at least 500-600 votes through using Twitter."
And IMHO, Trippi did more to put Britain's first social media election into perspective than other speakers.
As Swatee (@Swatee) and Ellis (@benjaminellis) tweeted, Trippi said, "You've seeded the network. You need to take those people and build on it for the next election. The nature of internet/social media is that the effect builds. Next time will be an order bigger."
Olly Parker (@OllyBeat) tweeted, "Trippi was right you need to have the tools and framework there to harness the surge when it comes this time it didn't."
Lee Bryant (@leebryant) tweeted, "Trippi nailed it & I hope this leads to the gradual disintermediation of parties in favour of looser networks based on values etc."
Jim Mortleman (@Jimjar) tweeted, "Joe Trippi: parties that think they can retain control over communications in future will die."
As David Turner (@dturneresq) tweeted, I asked the speakers if "YouTube was the dog that didn't bark."
Ironically, one of the invited speakers was Joanne Cash, Conservative's PC in Westminster North.
But, as Prince of Mischief (@Princemischief) tweeted, "Looks like Joanne Cash is not coming to election postmortem for some reason. Her losers speech on YouTube might explain..."
If you'd like to see the rant for yourself, the Prince of Mischief tweeted the URL to the YouTube video below.
Joanne Cash's losing speech
The next morning, I had breakfast with David Worsfold, Group Editorial Services Director at Incisive Media. We discussed his post in the Parliamentary Connections blog, "Liberal Democrat MPs have learnt that social media is a two-way street."
He had written, "Many commentators have already rushed to the conclusion that social media was the dog that didn't bark. They were premature." And he had added, "I think that social media is showing more of its potential in the aftermath of the election."
Even after five days of deal making resulted in the first-ever Conservative-Liberal Democratic government and the first coalition government in the UK in 65 years, I think Worsfold is spot on. Social media is showing more of its potential in the aftermath of the election.
So, there you have it. The social media mavens closest to Election UK 2010 think that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had a measurable impact this time around. And they also believe that social media will have an even greater impact in the next general election.
Is there anything else to add? Yes, there is.
The next time that I monitor how digital media innovations are transforming the character of campaign I plan to visit Robin Goad's Analyst Weblog early and often. Goad is Research Director of Hitwise UK.
It was only after the election on May 6 that I discovered that Goad had reported before the election that "Election traffic: Tories gain at Lib Dems' expense, but it remains close online."
He also analyzed "Bigot-gate and the role of social networks in the election."
I believe Goad was the only observer to notice that "Tories back on top following second leadership debate."
And he was the only one with data to ask, "Will Motorway Man swing to the Lib Dems?"
I could kick myself for not checking out his analyst weblog sooner. That's another lesson learned.