A young person’s ideas for a better online Lib Dem presence

The digital profile of the Liberal democrats is not making use of the huge opportunities the internet provides. I am a young Liberal Democrat who is often annoyed at our lack of digital presence as a party. This is a time where, due to our small number of MPs, we aren’t often appearing on the mainstream media and so it is the best possible time to start creating media of our own. A strong social media presence has two key benefits for the party. It will solidify our base of support with current members and simultaneously attract new ones.

The main problem with our current social media strategy seems to me to be a lack of tailoring to each individual platform so with that in mind here would be my recommendations for each platform.

YouTube

 Perhaps the greatest untapped goldmine the Lib Dems have is YouTube. The thing one must understand about YouTube is its current trend towards long form content. An example of this would be the series of interviews done by James O’Brien for Joe.co.uk. One recent interview was with Nick Clegg and gained 26 thousand viewers yet cost almost nothing to produce.

Why doesn’t the party dig out a camera, a microphone, have a young party member sit down and interview each MP for an hour. If it only gets a few thousand views no money has been wasted and a few thousand people have had the chance to listen to a Liberal Democrat point of view. Produce a podcast version of it and release that too. If Ed Miliband’s podcast can get 100,000 downloads surely, we can get into the marketplace too.

An important thing to remember is the right are already doing this, look at the recent news on UKIP or a half an hour interview with Katie Hopkins that gained 300 thousand views. This is an untapped goldmine of exposure, crucially aimed at a younger audience, that we are wasting.

Twitter

The twitter presence for the Liberal Democrats is on the whole good, the Lib Dem Press Office account being the highlight. The thing to remember about twitter is it is the opposite of YouTube. On YouTube users sit for hours watching long form content but twitter is about short, snappy and if possible humorous posts. I would change two things, firstly make our tweets funny, punchy and sharable to attract more people and gain more publicity. We need more “Stalin to Mr Bean” type tweets. Secondly, and this may seem a small detail, subtitle our twitter videos. People use twitter when they’re on the bus or walking down the street and so often won’t listen to the audio of videos, every Labour party video is subtitled for this reason, we need that too.

Reddit

Reddit is a forum website, allowing for long form debate and discussion. One of the most popular things in reddit are the AMAs (ask me anything). This consists of someone sitting down for an hour and taking questions from redditors and answering, a great way to converse with the public. We have already done these, most notably Paddy Ashown’s so why not do one a week with a prominent Lib Dem?

A Store

Another HUGE missed opportunity is a store on our website. Why not have a place for members to easily buy Lib Dem Badges, signs and T-shirts. Members want this stuff and are willing to further fund the party by paying for it, doing this raises money and engages members, its win win.

Facebook

The key to Facebook is to create a Lib Dem community. We have recently been using it well so all I would suggest is more live streams and interacting with members and the community will grow, people like to feel heard.

Social media costs little and can yield a lot

This is in no way an attack on our current digital team. We are doing well but what I’d like to see is a little more time and energy from the Lib Dems on a proper online presence. The key thing to remember is that social media costs little and can yield a lot. For the same price as an expensive Party Political Broadcast we could create hours and hours of content directly discussing our ideas and the evidence is that people would watch. 

* Oliver is a first-time writer, but frequent protester and canvasser

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21 Comments

  • John Chandler 19th Jul '18 - 9:04am

    Thumbs up for all of this. I do miss the Lib Dem Press Office Twitter account as it was during the election – it had so many fans among non-Lib Dem friends and family too.

    There were some good podcasts such as Liberate and Limehouse Podcast, but they’ve both died recently. Nick Clegg’s Anger Management is great, but not a Lib Dem specific podcast.

  • Sandra Hammett 19th Jul '18 - 9:25am

    Great article.
    Recent party political broadcasts have been terrible, the one with Vince in a hat at the end made me cringe.
    Facebook and Youtube are worth the time and investment.
    Facebook is used by the world and his wife providing a reliable medium for sharing and networking.
    Youtube is where people should be directed to our own channels to put our message across without the white noise and censorship (without sounding Trumpian) of MSM.
    What is key is avoiding the bubbles and echo chambers, we need to be welcoming and willing to debate.

  • nigel hunter 19th Jul '18 - 9:45am

    If UKIP can do it (an ominous sign) we can too, must. Social media is a tool of today, which the young are growing up with.They are the parties future who’s ideas should be used.Our digital team should get down to it.We live in a rapidly developing World, We must not be left behind.

  • nigel hunter 19th Jul '18 - 9:51am

    we the young

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Jul '18 - 10:00am

    Oliver – I agree absolutely about the need to be able to buy stuff via the federal website. However…

    “social media costs little”
    Not so – you pay with your personal data. And the more of it you leave lying around on social media the easier it is for the bad guys to build up a profile of you (facilitating identity theft – https://www.eonetwork.org/octane-magazine/special-features/social-media-networks-facilitate-identity-theft-fraud )

  • nigel hunter 19th Jul '18 - 10:18am

    Nonconformist, agree about the bad guy’s but do we not need to build up profiles on future recruits. voters, activists to grow the party? It is a tool for growth and getting our message across.

  • re: YouTube
    Why doesn’t the party dig out a camera, a microphone, have a young party member sit down and interview each MP for an hour.

    1. It is notable that little real use is being made of the LibDem channel [ https://www.youtube.com/user/LibDem ]. Perhaps this is down to the typical PR/media/image management that happens in organisations (including very small ones). Perhaps young LD’s need their own channel with an easy way to submit content for review and release.
    2. Given the quality of smartphones, all that is really necessary is a table top tripod stand for a smartphone. This approach would empower young LD’s to go out and conduct their own interviews. Yes they might be a bit rough and ready, but with some script help (eg. list of questions) some young LD’s will get some good practical experience – who knows some might decide a career in media is for them…

  • Sue Sutherland 19th Jul '18 - 11:44am

    Great to see all these ideas about how to promote the party. What can we do now to get these ideas implemented? Do LDV organisers have a hotline to our Chief Exec?

  • Like everyone else I’m seriously impressed by this. And like Sue I’m hoping LDV can make sure this reaches the desk of the party CEO. Do we even have a social media strategy at the moment? If we do, I suggest it needs an injection of energy, and I’d also suggest Oliver be invited to be a part of that.

  • Laurence Cox 19th Jul '18 - 12:18pm

    While it is good to look at new approaches, we still have our own social media in closed confidential conferences on Cix. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s these were heavily used, not least because the Party leadership supported them; Paddy Ashdown used to lurk there (and occasionally even respond as jjd), but subsequent leaders showed no interest, leading to the slow decay of LibDem Cix conferencing.

    We should be asking, why cannot the same sort of capability be added to the Party website to give all party members the opportunity to discuss what is going on in the Party and feed in their ideas. Because of GDPR it is much better to do this within the secured boundary of the Party website rather than on an insecure American platform like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit or Facebook.

  • OnceALibDem 19th Jul '18 - 3:46pm

    Lots of good points – certainly YouTube gets very ignored in looking at politics, young people and social media. Some YouTubers have massive audiences and cover very political issues – as do other ‘new’ news sites (eg ladbible has run lots of stuff on plastic pollution and mental health).

    Twitter seems very disconnected – eg on both the night of the Davis resignation and the vote Tim and Vince missed party accounts were slow to respond. The press office account has 1/3rd of the followers of Vince and 1/5th that of the main party account.

    I don’t agree with this though – “Social media costs little”. Sure posting costs little but the time preparing and following stuff up is very personnel intensive

  • Andy Hinton 19th Jul '18 - 4:04pm

    Agree with a lot of this, especially the importance of subtitling videos so people can watch them on their phones without subjecting all around them to the soundtrack.

    My one note of caution would be with the idea that it “costs nothing”. We’ve all seen, I’m sure, a lot of terrible attempts at social media and particularly video content which very visibly “cost nothing”! We shouldn’t be afraid to resource things properly if we value them. Shooting a video where the person speaking is inaudible because of bad sound quality is a wasted opportunity too.

  • Rob Parsons 19th Jul '18 - 4:14pm

    While I agree that a more formal top down approach has some benefits, it also has drawbacks. There is a great deal that we can do ourselves on a local basis, and we don’t need the encouragement or the formal support of TPTB to do it.

    In Lewes for the last couple of years we have been making much greater use of Facebook and Twitter. I have been trying to make the tone much as Oliver suggests, good natured but punchy when appropriate. You can see the results here:

    https://www.facebook.com/LewesLibDems/?ref=bookmarks
    https://twitter.com/Lewes_Lib_Dems

    Our Parliamentary campaigner, Kelly-Marie Blundell, has just started a daily video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqB7YWtHwtNciFCnAUK2TdA, and we are looking at the use of Youtube for the constituency. We are also looking at other possible channels, but it all takes quite a bit of time, which the national party cannot magic up for us.

    We have used Diigo, and I hope to make more use of this, e.g. an outliner on resources around plastic use which I shared with Plastic Free Lewes:
    https://www.diigo.com/outliner/f5w733/Plastic?key=ec4omocwp5

    The only frustration I have had so far, apart from the restriction of hours in the day to 24, is that I have sent, I think, four emails, each to several different people and departments, asking to be put on the mailing list for the party’s press releases. I have not even had an acknowledgement, let alone action. If anyone can help me get action on that, please let me know.

    All in all, I wonder if, rather than, or perhaps as well as, the party hierarchy, we might use less formal mechanisms already available to us – ALDC maybe, or the online champions, with which we can produce, and, most importantly, keep up to date, our ideas and suggestions for best practice. A body of evidence, case studies and guides from the people who do this stuff might make it a lot easier, and more efficient, for the party hierarchy to take action.

  • Sue Sutherland 20th Jul '18 - 11:50am

    Thank you for the link Paul and I have sent a message. It hadn’t occurred to me to use that address as a way of making suggestions to the party as it talks about queries.

  • Very much agree with Rob. There are definitely things we should expect of ‘the centre’ but social media is as much, if not more, about what people decide to do themselves and in their own communities and circles. That’s why I put quite a lot of work into tools to support that (see https://www.markpack.org.uk/154410/lib-dem-digital-campaigning-tools/) as what we can do locally adds up to much more than what can be done from one central HQ.

  • Nigel Quinton 20th Jul '18 - 5:30pm

    Thanks for sharing Oliver, great stuff there. I don’t agree with some of the comments about it not being cheap. We have produced videos for FB with many different approaches, from hand held smart phone to professionally produced (pro-bono I hasten to add!) and provided the audio is ok then the cheap and cheerful are just/almost as effective. Short pieces are easily done.

    Our challenge is making better use of them, posting across various media and linking to different accounts to widen visibility. That is where the time can disappear, or if time not available, where the videos get lost in the ether.

  • Seems like a well thought out article. My only criticism is that I hate videos and “phone ins”. Personally I prefer very carefully thought out text which is searchable, but then perhaps, I am an old dinosaur. And one other thing – a hit doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone has read the article or watched the video. Even if your stats can show you that someone, had your video playing all day, it doesn’t mean that anyone was watching it, or was even in the same building. The only proof of a useful “hit” is when someone comments, buys a mug, orders a publicity pack, or signs up for membership. But with those comments in mind, this is certainly an article to take note of.

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