Which NZ political party is winning the Facebook war?
The failed methodology of the mainstream political opinions polls are throwing up results that are detached from reflecting political opinion and are increasingly about manipulating public opinion.
After being told by the mainstream media every month between 2008-2011 that John Key had over 50% support, apathy did the rest and saw NZs lowest voter turn out in 120 years at last years election.
As Opposition Party's grapple with trying to bypass an increasingly right wing and biased media combined with the death of public broadcasting, they need to come up with new ways to talk to the electorate. It is not surprising when the Herald places a hard right masquerading as lite right Government propagandist like David Farrar in an unchallenged position on their site that the left would want to bypass the msm and talk directly to their activists and supporters, so who is succeeding and adapting?
In August of last year I looked at how many Facebook friends each of the NZ Political Party's had, the results were...
AUGUST 2011 Facebook rankings
7th - NZ First - 367 Facebook supporter
6th - Maori Party - 724 Facebook supporters
5th - ACT - 921 Facebook supporters
4th - National - 1197 Facebook supporters
3rd - MANA - 2429 Facebook supporters
2nd - Labour - 3525 Facebook supporters
1st - Greens - 11 633 Facebook supporters
That was the rankings 12 months ago, what are they now?
NZ First 'jumps' up to 726 Facebook friends in the space of a year. Seeing as NZ First is a political party aimed at the far older end of the spectrum, using measures dependent on a basic competence of 21st Century technology may not be the best way to judge them. If Winston ever did suffer a health shock, I'm not sure NZ First would have the political capital to continue looking at how bare thread their online future muscle is.
The Maori Party haven't fared much better, they are now up to 1 013 Facebook supporters. Reviewing a lot of the comments, the war between MANA supporters and Maori Party supporters is very interesting and highlights the dangers for control freaks of social media. When a Party is not performing well and is acting contrary to their perceived principles, the online backlash can be very destructive.
ACT fare better. For a Party whose only strength now is their online activists, this years 1 745 Facebook supporters is better than their 921 showing last year.
The anomaly last year is still this years anomaly. National have a pitiful 2 863 Facebook supporters while John Key has 74 768 Facebook supporters. It's the reality that Key is National's strength, as a party they have a pathetic online support base, but Key's smile and wave routine with the empty aspiration and vacant optimism shows the easily seduced sleepy hobbits adore him.
For a political party that barely existed last year, MANA's 2429 was a spectacular debut and they have continued it this year with 3518 Facebook supporters. The sinking of the Maori Party and the rise of MANA is a story that will make a vast difference in 2014, especially after the new round of dead rats the Maori Party have had to swallow over asset sales.
The Labour Party have had one of the largest jumps in online support from last years 3 525 to this years 6 953. Despite all the hatred and class bigotry The cool cats at the Standard throw at Clare Curran, her vision of pushing out deeper to online communities is paying dividends, unfortunately the decision by the Labour Party coven to select a camouflaged invisible ninja as their leader continues to make any advances on line pointless if Labour are sliding backwards in the polls.
It is hard for Labour, their activists aren't stupid and the on going surprise at Shearer as leader over Cunliffe hasn't enabled them to fire. When David Parker is telling business audiences that telecommunications and energy generators are not on the list of assets to protect, the shift to the right isn't inspiring the on line activist base. It may be an unfair example, but take yesterdays Stuff on line poll, now while the question was 'which political party is doing best right now' - any party worth it's salt would have their on line activists voting on mass, of the 891 votes cast, Labour received a pathetic 105 votes (MANA got 66 votes and the Greens got 154 votes).
The message seems clear, if Labour don't start inspiring voters, other political parties will.
The undisputed champion of on line social media however is still the Greens. Their strategy to be a genuine communicator with their supporters in an authentic way has reaped them an incredible dividend. Last year they had 11 633 Facebook supporters, this year a staggering 17 424. The Greens have understood from their years as activists that a constant dialogue is the most important element in keeping and building a community. They have understood social media and it's strengths for political base building for the future better than any other party in the political spectrum.
So the August 2012 Facebook supporters table looks like this...
1st - Greens 17 424
2nd - Labour 6 953
3rd - MANA 3 518
4th - National 2 863
5th - ACT 1 745
6th - Maori Party 1 013
7th - NZ First 726
The opposition can take heart that disgruntled voters are seeking them out and creating the largest online increases in their support, but Key's ongoing love affair with the Kiwi populace means that while National policy may be as popular as bowel cancer, Key's vacant optimism has won over the sleepy hobbits.
The caveat to that is I know many people who like John Key's page so that they can debate and troll national party voters (a game we all love to play), so his high level of support might not be the golden goose it suggests.
Interesting that the digital divide that would punish the left most doesn't show up in this list.
Why is any of this important? Political Party membership was once a crucial structure within society. Ask your grand parents where they met and they may say 'at the party social'. Political Party membership was once a way people met, interacted, built and bonded over. But Party membership has collapsed in modern times, particularly after the right wing betrayal of Labour in the 1980's so the new means of building community via social media is one of the most fascinating evolutions of political culture.
Whoever wins this new frontier is the political future.