If you’re reading this, the chances are that you – like an average of 12m others in the UK – will also log in to Facebook today. But will you use it connect with your political interests, as well as your friends? Given that it hadn’t hit the UK at the time of the last general election, it will be interesting to see how Facebook plays out in the next one.
Having a Facebook page and updating it regularly is the bread and butter of what political groups and representatives can do, but there’s also room to think outside of the box. There’s also the Facebook Connect feature, for example, that enables users to log in to third party websites using their Facebook account. There have been some fun and practical uses of it so far, though few in the political realm.
This weekend, we launched a campaign using Facebook Connect which we believe is one of the most innovative uses of the tool yet seen in the UK. Built in just a few days in response to the growing concern about the control Charlie Whelan’s Unite union (the union behind the BA strikes) has on Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, the campaign utilises Facebook Connect to raise awareness of the issue beyond Westminster. This campaign makes it easy for people to spread the word out to their non-political friends, thereby bringing a new wave of pressure to bear on this unhealthy meshing of interests.
Once users have connected to the Cash-Gordon campaign, they can start accruing “action points” for reading briefings about the issue, getting their friends involved, donating, or even for directly asking Charlie Whelan a question. Unlike face-to-face traditional campaigning, a lot of online advocacy is hard to measure and often goes unrecognised – action points provide a way of both measuring and incentivising those efforts.
In the brave new world of online politics it’s important to keep innovating in this way. If you have any ideas on how else we could be using the internet, please let us know in the comment thread.