Will this really be the "social media election"?

Not necessarily

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Whisper it softly -- as it may not go down well on Twitter or Facebook: This may not be the social media election.

Labour has just launched its 2010 general election manifesto with a pretty major nod to social networking, a leading blogger making the first speech and a cartoon designed to be spread rounf Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, as reported in the live launch blog earlier. Strategists are excited by the new emphasis on these communications methods. Doubtless, the Tories and other parties will attempt to follow suit.

But according to some observers, there is too much emphasis on these methods. Professor Philip Cowley of Nottingham University, for example, has just posted this warning against paying too much attention to them. In it, he says:

[There] is an inverse relationship between the importance of any election campaign technique and the amount of media coverage devoted to it.

Of course, these sites are popular new methods of spreading messages, views -- and links. And many people in politics use them. But the reality, surely, is that it is the message itself -- and not the method of spreading that message -- which will determine how people vote. And in the end, it is still worth betting that the set-piece television news bulletins -- and the deabtes -- will be most influential in this election.

PS: You can follow my "tweets" at www.twitter.com/james_macintyre but I won't be tweeting a link to this heretical post.


James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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