Webcameron isn’t as new as you’re meant to think

StatCounter tells me how many readers I have and FeedBurner tells me how many subscribers I have. But’s it nice to know I also have fans! I’ve had emails from readers of both A PR Guru’s Musings and Stuart’s Soapbox asking what I think of Webcameron.

Unlike Antony Mayfield I am a politically aligned (Labour) social media blogger, but I still agree with Mayfield’s analysis. Webcameron is a very good initiative and despite its many flaws still beats Labour’s offerings by a considerable margin.

In their venture into social media both Labour and the Conservatives have got a lot wrong (in my humble opinion). But that doesn’t matter so much as the fact they are trying. It is inevitable they will make mistakes along the way, but better to make them now when social media and the web is still peripheral to mainstream politics than later when it becomes far more crucial.

The key difference between what Labour is doing and what the Conservatives are doing is understanding. You get the impression that the Tories get what social media is really about, while Labour still just sees it as a set of new tools.

Simon Collister has some interesting thoughts about Webcameron on his eDemocracy Update blog. He also questions if “Politics needs a sea-change in attitudes, not a ride aboard the blogging bandwagon.”

“In order to become relevant and attractive to the disillusioned, apathetic electorate, politicians and political parties must become more honest, up-front and ‘personalised’ – that is, not hide behind a facade of lofty political establishments.”

That’s not my experience of traditional politics – from any of the mainstream parties. Politics is already a lot more open and conversational than the mainstream media would have you believe. The big problem is that most people get their perception of politics from the political media who paint the picture they want to, rather than what matters and is relevant to people.

Social media as part of the political process is more about taking traditional political themes, such as localism and community activism, and working with them online.

So yes a big part of politics and social media is to bypass the spin and distortion presented by mainstream media. But it’s not that different to the way many of us already practice politics on a local level.

Conversations down the pub and at the school gates are no different to conversations on blogs and other social media. A newsletter delivered door to door taking about local issues and asking for people’s views is just another way of listening and sparking a conversation. A coffee morning with local residents to talk about what goes into your local manifesto is a conversation.

One of the main benefits of social media is that it is that it is much faster, quicker and cheaper than traditional channels of conversation and participation. It’s big downside is that still doesn’t and can’t reach enough people. That’s why we need both.

So political social media and Webcameron isn’t that new after all.

XP: Stuart’s Soapbox