September 5, 2011

Federal Elections and 2.0


The penetration rate of social network is higher today in Switzerland than in was in 2008 in the United States, at the time of Barack Obama’s election. However, the Swiss political elite is still very cautious when it comes to investing in social networking. The web tool 2.0 is far from being mastered or used efficiently.

Political parties: Presence is not enough

In the Geneva canton, for example, Facebook had over 125,000 members in August 2011, or about one out of four Geneva residents. The number of fans on the parties’ profile pages forecasts a polarized battle between the Socialist Party (PS) and the Liberal-Radical Party (PLR). The personal profile of Genève Solidaire attracts 3,918 people, but this party is not presenting any candidates in the next election. The Green Party is very represented, but similarly to the previous party, they use a personal profile rather than a Facebook “page”.

However, with web 2.0, it is less the number of fans that really matters, but the relationship with members, which guarantees the dissemination of the message (through “liking”, “commenting” or “sharing”). This kind of interaction reflects the strength of the relationship and is key in disseminating the message. We thus observe that an apparently influential group such as Genève Solidaire has almost no relationship with its members. The PS has six times more relationships with its members. The PLR is the most advanced party in terms of interaction, but it is true that the PS doesn’t manage its page in an amateurish way.

Candidates: Too many friends can hurt

Many candidates use their personal account to discuss and interact with as many people as possible, instead of having a “page”, as Facebook recommends.

This is where it gets difficult: if a Facebook profile generates too many friend requests (“too many” refers to a secret algorithm), the requests or even the account can be blocked; Facebook can also force the user to delete friends or to leave pages before the user can create new connections. The candidates who did not understand the modus operandi of pages and personal accounts will be in a difficult situation should their account be blocked or a limit imposed upon them. Will they have to reject new friend requests, or de-friend long-time friends to seek out new supporters?

FYI: The difference between a personal profile and a page on Facebook:

A user’s profile is limited in the number of friend requests it can send (the limit is kept secret by Facebook). However, a Facebook page can attract as many fans as possible. Pages offer detailed statistics about interactions and can send notifications to fans, which is difficult to do with a Facebook personal profile (one risks to be considered as spam and blocked).

This article has been posted by Olivier Kennedy
on September 5, 2011
in #Other
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