Vlogging to victory

It may not have done Labour much good, but Ed Miliband’s biggest achievement of the whole election in my mind came when he managed to secure an endorsement from Russell Brand. Not that I’m saying having Russell Brand back you is that great, but it’s an achievement. Why? Because he is a figure that many young people look up to and pay attention to and – regardless of whether we think that’s a good idea or not – we have to respect that.

The BBC news website reported the other day that vloggers (Video Bloggers) had been given advertising guidelines. This increase is due to the fact that “YouTube celebrities” are now effectively plain old “celebrities”, with figures such as the writer and one half of the vlogging duo “Vlogbrothers” John Green celebrating the release of the film “Paper Towns”, one of his own novels. As the article states “Nearly a quarter of 11 to 19-year-old girls (24%) view well-known fashion and beauty vlogger Zoella as a role model”, hardly a small audience.

This is a realm of influence as yet mostly untapped by the other parties. I remember a few years ago the vlogger/comedian Humza Arshad made a video endorsing Ken Livingston for the Mayoral election, again I hear you say it may not have changed much but the influence is there. Humza now works with police to counter extremism in young people further demonstrating the influence these YouTube have with younger audiences. 

If we want to increase our youth appeal, reaching out to the YouTube community would be a key step. Our Digital Bill of Rights plan from the last election would likely prove hugely popular.  Getting YouTubers’ support in the same way as other celebrity endorsements is a logical next step.  Let’s at least try and take the lead in this. YouTube is increasingly the way to reach people and our party is sadly lagging behind in its YouTube presence.

During the leadership election Tim Farron’s “Tim Talks” videos were a step in the right direction for getting ourselves out there on YouTube. YouTube is simultaneously a social media website as well as a fantastic advertising platform. Greater presence on there, both in the form of endorsements and our own party’s videos will in my view prove key in the future as society moves to online based entertainment.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting we start chasing after figures such as Charlie (Charlieissocollike)or Zoella, I’m simply saying we should reach out to that community to both gain an edge in the new digital world order and regain youth support. I think that Liberal Youth could take a lead role in championing young people’s issues on YouTube as well as encouraging greater youth participation in politics.

* Will Wilshere is a member of Watford Liberal Democrats. He blogs here.

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  • Richard Kemp 20th Aug '15 - 9:29am

    This report is spot on. We invited our new members most of who are young to contribute to review or communications strategy. As a result we will be relaunching both our website and our YouTube site in 16th September to coincide with Conference. They also volunteered to administrate the sites. This means that people like me just have to up our game. Take a picture of a problem for Focus and then do a little talk about it for YouTube.

    New media does not replace old media. Even if less people read Focus there is a tremendous appreciation of our dedication and affords in delivering it. In fact I think good Focus are read more tha. Before because of the demise of local newspapers.

    Watch out for our relaunches and tell us what you think.

  • I see Russell Brand is now supporting Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Aug '15 - 10:30am

    David Raw At least he is now in favour of voting, not giving it away. http://bitetheballot.co.uk/

  • Brand claims to be a comedian, actor and activist.

    Well…. whatever else he is he’s no longer a YOOF…He’s 40, middle aged, needs a haircut and gave Edward Milliband the kiss of death in the election.

  • Ross Fifield 20th Aug '15 - 3:19pm

    Video messaging and streaming is a medium highly under-used by the Party. It is best used if you can hold a two way conversation (responding to tweets and emails is a good way to manage an on-going conversation, there are others though).

    The key is to have engaging content. Youtubers who simply video a piece to camera telling people what they think won’t get very far. I’m convinced that the only reason Brand gets away with it is because he’s established – I doubt it’s playing to his strengths.

    Youtuber’s (and lets not forget other video hosting sites such as vimeo, etc), who use it as a platform for a genuine back and forth can generate quite a following….

  • John Tilley 20th Aug '15 - 4:23pm

    Politicians cosying up to celebrities is not new. In the 1960s Harold Wilson noticed Heath’s grumpy and less than populist statements about The Beatles and immediately dished out the MBEs.
    Slightly earlier Lord Boothby the senior Conservative was happy to be in the company of Harold MacMillan’s wife and celebrity underworld types such as The Krays — although I’m not sure how many votes the latter delivered.
    Margaret Thatcher fell over herself to be pictured with Jimmy Savile — I wonder where all those photographs are now!
    Neil Kinnock literally fell over at the seaside and surrounded himself with pop stars and entertainers.
    Tony Blair (who we are told dreamed of being Mick Jagger) filled Downing Street with Blur and Oasis.
    I mention all these blasts from the past because the evidence seems to show that celebrity endorsement does not always turn out well in the long run. I realise that this article is wider than just Russell Brand and I agree with some of the points made. . Keeping up with technological changes and media improvememts makes sense.

    However, politics will always be about attempting to persuade and to gain the trust of ordinary people via whatever methods are available.

    Whatever the tools, whatever the medium, talking to and listening to ordinary people in the environment that they feel most at home and working with them to take power for the common good is what we should be about.

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Aug '15 - 5:31pm

    I have to say, I was very impressed with the videos by John Tolley in the recent coucil by-election in RIchmond.

    I’m speaking, mind you, as someone who is intensely interested in the 19th century, whose concept of what a digital existence should be like didn’t really make it past 2005, who loathes social media, and doesn’t own a mobile phone…

  • Glynn Quelch 20th Aug '15 - 5:38pm

    Just putting videos up on YouTube is no good, we need to find a number of faces who are enthusiastic, clearly understood and has a lot of time on there hands. Building an audience is a full time hobby and requires being on YouTube for most of the day. Keeping conversations going in the comments is very time consuming and frustrating.

    Is there much of a politics community on there? Muscling in and doing video responses to people’s questions generates views and ultimately likes and subscribers.

    I did this to build my personal reputation in the pipe tobacco community & industry. But it’s hard work and not very rewarding in the early days.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Aug '15 - 9:59am

    I absolutely disagree with the first paragraph: we should NOT respect Russell Brand’s popularity. He reminds me of the cooler-than-thou twits at the back of the sixth form common room who used to give me a hard time. If young people like him, then that is an indictment of young people as it indicates that they approve of such spiteful obnoxiousness. And he also has no idea about politics but just repeats banal slogans while at the same time telling people not to vote. I respect any politician who rejects his endorsement and who wants nothing to do with him.

  • Will Wilshere 21st Aug '15 - 10:11am

    We may not respect HIM but we have to respect the fact he IS popular, even if we don’t respect what for.

    He IS popular, he IS listened to, he DOES have influence and we should seek out the endorsement of other youtube figures (just not in a million years him).

  • Richard Stallard 21st Aug '15 - 1:55pm

    Being a hit on Youtube relies on one being cool.
    Present opinion (amongst the young in particular, following the student fees debacle), would suggest that the Liberal Democrats are about as cool as a reheated pizza on a soggy Wednesday.

  • Sadie Smith 21st Aug '15 - 2:00pm

    Colin, using throw away emails causes all sorts of problems for those of us who want to say ‘hello and welcome’.
    I have a selection of people who have used them. Some I know as real people. Others I wonder about with frustration.
    I see why you want to avoid a lot – but everything??

  • Zack Polanski 24th Aug '15 - 10:00am

    I agree entirely with this article.

    For those voting in the GLA, I’d love to draw your attention to numerous videos I have vlogged about a range of issues from housing to stop and search that are available on my website. There’s another one coming in the next few days about cycling too. I agree with Will – we need to use every means we can to engage people; and we’ve got to keep up.

    If you’re interested, my site is at http://www.zackpolanski.co.uk


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