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"The use of social media throughout New Zealand's election day"
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"The use of social media throughout New Zealand's election day"

Eva MariaThe pitfalls identified in New Zealand’s general election on 26 November go to show that political parties need to get their head around social media, and fast, reports Commonwealth Correspondent Eva Maria, 21.

Media coverage of the recent ­New Zealand elections was described by many as uneventful. The country was buzzing, as National and Labour parties went in to win the hearts of Kiwis, but come election night the interviews were dull, coverage was minimum and the biggest piece of news that made it onto the front pages in the morning was John Key’s pizza delivery to his Auckland home.

I won’t go into the politics of the day, apart from the fact that with the counted votes, the reported overall number of the electorate that came out to vote (although numbers vary between media outlets) was about 74%. Does this mean the other 26% decided against all parties?

But I want to talk about the use of social media throughout the election day. Although by law you are not allowed to campaign on voting day, social media networks were buzzing with people wanting to update their friends of their political status and the fact that they were proud voters while slamming the opposition. What’s interesting is that this is the first time in history where social media really showed the true power that people have right of speech, regardless of law.

Although the act of updating your Facebook status with a simple ‘just voted!’ apparently goes against voicing news of elections of the individual to a public forum, New Zealand was not prepared for the policing of these updates. This year’s election marked the start of a new age – 3, 4 years ago, while social media was in its infancy, it wasn’t as easy to post your opinion. 2011 only goes to show how much people can dictate what laws they follow through new technology.

Another interesting aspect was to see how political parties handle social media during this time. As any good business knows, when bad feedback is written in a public forum, by the time you find out about it, many people have seen it, and if you’re going to delete the comment to save face, think again because people want their problems acknowledged; you may get up the next day to a whole waterfall of comments by the same individual and all their friends about your disregard for their feedback or concern.

The political parties, although I understand may not have the marketing budget of a corporate company, need to get their head around social media, and fast. So many of my own friends who posted legitimate questions on party social media networks had to screenshot their comment before it was erased within hours, seemingly because it was questioning party policies. This is not a good strategy for gaining popularity, or turningquestioning voters into supporters.

All we can do is wait out the next term and see if political parties have adapted more. Let’s hope they enrol armies of young, passionate interns to advise them. Otherwise the voice of the people will really get out of hand, and the laws breached will be out of anyone’s control.

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About me:

“I am a family coach, international speaker, social media expert and author of the bestselling parenting book ‘You Shut Up!’ Though Russian-born, I currently live in New Zealand, and today work with various groups, businesses and families.

“I am on a full-on mission to help improve 10,000,000 adult-youth relationships around the world.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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