The Referendum

Two years ago, I wrote a blog about the social media impact on the US Presidential Election, where I made a confident prediction on who would win based on the mobilisation of ground troops online, with a basic understanding of how to engage prospective voters – which resulted in me receiving torrents of abuse from angry Republicans, after I eloquently argued that their candidate, and the people running his campaign, were not quite up to speed digitally. In the end I was proved right, and found my blog second in the search results for ‘why Mitt Romney will lose the Election’. A small victory I feel.

Tomorrow, the people of my country, Scotland, go to the polls to decide whether they want to remain part of the UK, or whether they want to be an Independent government. Now, I’m not going to regurgitate the respective arguments or even pick a preference, rather I’m going highlight that digital disruption is kicking into the media, the government and the pollsters, which has left us in a situation where the result is not quite as cut and dried as they think.

Furthermore, and I feel I need to say this following the fallout of the Romney blog, I am expressing NO POLITICAL OPINION OR PREFERENCE WITHIN THIS POST. I AM MERELY MAKING OBSERVATIONS FROM A PROFESSIONAL POINT OF VIEW. 

Over the past two years, opinion polls have confidently predicted a No vote, the government has outlined why Scotland can’t be Independent and the media have published it. But, despite all the negativity regarding defence, Oil, health and currency, support for the Yes campaign has steadily grown. In fact, two weeks ago, opinion polls for the first time recognised that the Yes campaign might win. Which prompted panic within the establishment. Opinion polls are currently predicting a result that is only just in favour of a No vote. But what is the basis of these predictions? Street surveys? Telephone polls?

Have they not looked online?

Approximately 50% of the Scottish population have a Facebook account and with 97% of those eligible to vote registered to vote, and a predicted turnout of over 85%, the pollsters, government and the media appear to have only recently noticed what is actually going on online.

There were more than 8.5 million Facebook interactions regarding the Referendum, in Scotland, in the 5 weeks to September 8th. Of these interactions, the Yes campaign is clearly in the lead, thanks in part to their mobilisation of ground troops, engaging, discussing and debating the key issues of the debate. Within the same time frame, almost 90% of discussions regarding the referendum on Twitter, were pro Yes.

Often dismissed, by the No campaign as ‘Cyber Nats’, the Yes campaigners have managed to use digital channels to reach out to audiences that would not normally vote, and also engage with first time voters – 16 and 17 year old’s will be eligible to vote. The Yes campaign have posted 4 to 5 times more to Facebook than the No campaign, and leader of the Yes campaign, Alex Salmond even participated in a live Facebook Q&A with the electorate, that attracted over 5000 questions. Those in business know how effective it can be to talk directly to your customers. Clearly this tactic has worked for the Yes campaign. 

What is particularly interesting is that this has barely been reported by the media, until very recently. The newspaper industry has been decimated by digital disruption. Their print circulation is down and loyalty to one particular news source is rare. The public now have the choice to make informed decisions and review the opinions of multiple news sources, rather than consulting just one source. As a result, Facebook and Twitter are now news hubs, where content is aggregated, enabling people to make more informed decisions. The coordinated Yes campaign has tapped into this by displaying complete transparency and promoting a positive message, which resonates far more with digital natives, rather than the negative messages from the No campaign.

Ultimately, I hope for a high turnout tomorrow and for the people who live in Scotland to make the right choice for their future, whatever that may be.

But I believe the battle will be won or lost online… 






Why Mitt Romney won’t be the next President of the United States

Now, there’s a controversial statement if ever there was one. I’m really going to have to work hard to convince you of my argument. But I’m not going to focus on the fact that Romney is a robotic, tax dodging, vacant, venture capitalist who would probably sell his own mother, with zero social skills, as, surprisingly, some people quite like those qualities in their politicians. No, I’m going to focus on Romney’s spectacular failure to understand, embrace and apply digital channels and social media to his campaign. The consequence of this is that he is failing to speak to young voters, which leaves him looking incredibly out of touch with the country as a whole. 

The 2008 Presidential election was the first election where social media played a part in campaigning. Barack Obama did a sterling job of motivating the youth and the disaffected of the USA to vote for change. And he succeeded. The key to his success in my opinion was to take his message direct to those who he wanted to vote for him. So, he took his campaign to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. The next campaign is already focusing on old friends such as Facebook and Twitter, but Obama now has a presence on Foursquare, G+ and Pinterest. Rather than take a lead on social platforms, Romney really looks like a follower. And not just a follower, but a follower of Obama. The following trends take place across all platforms that the candidates have a presence on however, to keep things simple, I’m going to focus on their respective Twitter profiles:

As Roy Walker used to say on Catchphrase, say what you see. First things first, look at the summaries of the two individuals. The President has his campaign hashtag, and mentions the fact that he’s actually the President! Romney’s profile mentions that he used to be the governor of Massachusetts. Clearly it wasn’t worth him mentioning that he’s got something important coming up in November, or who he represents or why you should vote for him. Very poor. Secondly, let’s look at the followers. Obama has over 17.5m followers. That’s 17.5m who want the latest news and updates from the Obama camp. 17.5m million people that Obama will be able to send a direct message to on the day before Election day, reminding them to get out and vote. Romney? Well 669k followers is nothing to be sniffed at however compared to Obama, he isn’t at the races. Now, Twitter followings are not the be all and end all. In the Republican Primaries, Newt Gingrich had the most Twitter followers however Newt is clearly a lunatic who would just say anything to get votes. Bases on Mars for instance.

The key to success for the candidates is the actual engagement that they have with their followers. Let’s look at the below messages. Obama’s messages focus on inspiration and hope (quotes from Nelson Mandela) and transparency – links to tax returns from both candidates. Romney however is all about blame. It’s everyone’s fault, the Fed, big government and Obama. In fact, why not tell Obama. Here’s how to contact him. Hello, now this is interesting. Does Obama ever use Romney’s Twitter handle in his posts? No, of course not. Why should you go and check out the other guy when he’s the authority. Romney however is actually directing people to Barack Obama! And those disaffected that are following Romney are being directed to messages of hope and positivity with Barack Obama. Talk about an own goal!


When it comes down to it, I’m not surprised. Romney is not an A-list candidate. And the Republicans have not put together a media support team which skill and expertise for winning the election. Candidates that stand against a sitting President tend to be poorer candidates as the A-list candidates want to have a clear run, not take on someone with an established media presence that is likely to win. Which is why your Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and other ‘heavyweight’ candidates are not standing. Romney reminds me of a kid that will do anything to get what he wants yet rarely gets. Kind of a bully in all honesty. But he doesn’t quite fit in with the whole American good ol’ boy image that Republicans love, which is why Republicans are happy to let him stand. If you asked a red blooded Republican, what they would prefer, 4 more years of Obama or 8 years of Romney, I think they’d plump for the former. Obama is such an inspiring figure yet Romney comes across as someone that you’d tell you could’t come out because you were washing your hair. Romney is a whiner and a blamer. He’s spent his whole life ducking and dodging and this comes across with his online profile. He throws money at problems to make them go away but all this does is make him seem even more out of touch with the man on the street.

One final point on Mitt Romney. Mitt’s family spent some time South of the Border and he has an extended family of Mexicans. Now what if Mitt was Mexican? Well if you want to know what would happen in the freaky parallel universe, why not follow MexicanMitt on Twitter. He’s the most Mexican man in the world and you can follow his campaign to become President of the United Estates! 

Obviously I’ve predicted that Barack Obama will win the 2012 Presidential Election. I’m really going to go out on a limb here but I predict that George P. Bush will one day be President. Maybe not in four years. Maybe not in eight. But he will be. With an ever increasing Latino population in the United States, it’s almost impossible for not just a Bush, but a Mexican Bush to fail in a bid to become El Presidente of the United Estates! Ajua!