01 August 2016

Australian politics: Social media wins and fails

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Now the Australian election has wrapped up, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. No more foreboding television ads, obnoxious radio spots or pun-tastic newspaper headlines…at least until the next election campaign begins.

In the digital age, election coverage is even more ubiquitous than ever. Sites such as Buzzfeed posted relentlessly about Australian politics throughout the election campaign, ranging from serious news stories to their trademark quirky quizzes.

Of course, anyone on Facebook or Twitter knows firsthand the constant stream of political posts, and the at times hostile environment of #auspol and #ausvotes.

Social media has changed the world of politics forever, providing cheap and impactful platforms for political parties to reach voters. The 2016 campaign was dubbed “the Facebook election” according to the ABC, and we have seen a number of great, and some not so great uses of social media this year. Here are a few political social media wins and fails:

Win: Independent candidates make their mark

Let’s face it, advertising on TV and radio is expensive. There is a reason why we tend to only hear from the major parties in the lead up to elections: they are the only ones who can afford to advertise.

Social media changes that, as independent candidate for Warringah, James Matthison showed us. His campaign launch video has been viewed over 720 000 times, easily outnumbering content shared by major parties and helping his campaign gain momentum.

Matthison told the ABC social media is crucial to his campaign due to its low cost.

“If you've seen [my campaign] it's myself, a couple of volunteers and we don't have the ability to spend [much money] so we still have to find a way to reach people,” he said.

Fail: Never underestimate the power of Twitter

Remember Fake Tradie? Twitter remembers, and has immortalised him with a hastag, #faketradie.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you might recognise this guy:

This charming little ad was released by the Liberal party and…let’s just say people weren’t impressed. Many Twitter users took issue with the seemingly contrived nature of the ad and #faketradie was born. Some Twitter comedy gold ensued.

Recent updates suggest the guy in the ad might actually be a real tradie, but the point stands: politicians and their media teams must never underestimate the power of a good Twitter roast.

Win: Politicians realise “social media” is not just “Facebook and Twitter”

The iconic blue F and bird logos might be the most recognisable in the social media world, but they’re not the only ones. Platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are making a big impact in our increasingly visual world. According to the ABC, politicians including Julie Bishop, Wyatt Roy and Sam Dastyari are all embracing Snapchat as a means to engage young voters.

Fail: Kelly O’Dwyer and the Liberal Party aren’t fans of parody

An unfortunate truth of social media is anonymous users are not always kind. Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer learnt this firsthand when a parody account comparing her to embattled former member for Indy, Sophie Mirabella, was launched. According to The Age, @Kelly_dnuSophie compares O’Dwyer’s campaign in Higgins to Mirabella’s disastrous 2013 loss.

The account is not exactly flattering but it’s pretty standard for Twitter. O’Dwyer and her team disagree and, according to The Age, lodged a copyright claim to have the account suspended, based on the notion that she owns the rights to photos being shared. The claim didn’t really have legs, mainly because most of the photos in fact belong to Fairfax Media.

Twitter declined to remove the account, demonstrating once again that social media is a different beast entirely to other media platforms.

Christian Berechree joined Akolade’s production team in May 2016. He has a Bachelor of Media and Music and a Masters in Journalism.

Christian is a musical theatre geek and a new dad, and he’ll happily spend hours telling you about either or both of those things.

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