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David Cameron may have famously poked fun at social networking site Twitter when he said in a radio interview, “Too many twits make a tw*t”, but yesterday the Conservative party took a rather different line on the power of the Tweet as it announced it has amassed just over 30,000 “followers” on the site.
“Thank you for your support – we have now reached 30,000 followers,” the Conservatives tweeted. Indeed the Tories appear to have out-tweeted their rivals: the Labour party has just over 16,268 followers, and the Lib Dems have 19,360.
While no one is suggesting that voters will consider a party’s following on Twitter when casting their vote, all of the parties are only too aware of the importance of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The Labour party was understandably chuffed for instance that Gordon Brown’s speech to Citizens UK became the most viewed video on YouTube in the UK today.
Yet a recent survey of 1,000 respondents by social media consultants Lewis Communications found a bit of a mixed bag when it came to people’s attitudes to social networking and politics. 56 per cent of the sample had visited political websites, and 24 per cent thought that Twitter is an essential communication tool in a democracy.
But while 27 per cent would be encouraged to vote for an MP if contacted by one on social networking sites, 48 per cent would not. As for the all-important question of fund-raising, 30 per cent said they would go online if they wanted to donate cash, while only 12 per cent said they would prefer to donate over the phone. Little surprise then that the Conservative Party has been busily Tweeting messages like this one: “Over 70% of Labour’s donations comes from the unions – as we raise a record amount from small donations. Donate now.”
In other politics-meets-social-networking-news, one company has gone to the trouble of ranking the main parties’ political websites not by their impact, depth or even style – but on how quickly the pages load. Keynote Systems, which does website performance tuning and the like, has been measuring the responsiveness and reliability of the key political parties’ websites in the run up to the election. It found the Lib Dems are out in front with a load time of 0.93 seconds, with the Green Party on 1.12 seconds, Tories on 1.99 seconds and Labour trailing way behind at 6.42 seconds.
Of course, high traffic rates can slow websites down as the servers struggle to meet demand, so you might read into these figures that Labour is simply getting the most visitor traffic on its site. Then again, you might not.