Left Foot Forward has an eye-catching headline today: 2010 will be the “television election” say social media experts, and in some ways it’s certainly a welcome change for internet pundits to be talking down rather than talking up an imminent internet-fuelled revolution in British political campaigning.
However, I think the post (or rather the people who the post reports on) underplays two important issues. First, social media and TV aren’t competing promotional tools – whether for parties or for companies – but are complimentary. The impact of the party leader TV debates will be felt, but that impact will be played out not just in the pictures on our TV screens, but by the texts, tweets, status updates and more that people send whilst watching the debates – and the immediate online debate, discussion and touting of views, facts and clips once each debate finishes.
Second, though, TV is a national medium. There are regional TV shows and both national and regional TV feature individual constituencies at times. The direct impact on constituency campaigns is fairly muted compared with the ability of good local campaigns to insulate themselves from the national picture. In a close election – which is the most likely looking outcome – it will be the local campaigning on the ground that makes the difference in the clutch of seats which determine who ends up Prime Minister. In that local campaigning, social media will be extremely important – and TV, any eye-catching individual candidate blunders aside, very much the also ran.