At the recent Scottish Assembly elections, the SNP swept into power with a staggering majority of 69 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) elected. This result is all the more impressive for the fact that the Scottish Parliament was designed to facilitate coalition rule. For those of us interested in how political success occurs, we must analyse their approach and see whether elements of it can be brought to bear on Green Party electioneering.
To that end, I would strongly advise anyone interested to check out the BBC Radio 4 Podcast “Weekly Political Review: Beyond Westminster” from the 4th June 2011. In it, journalist Michael Buchanan interviews the SNP campaign team and asks how they they transformed their party’s fortunes. On policy, they ran a much stronger and positive campaign than Labour, with a passionate and articulate advocate for the country’s future in Alex Salmond. Yet, it is the organisational strategy behind their campaign that must bear closer examination.
Following on from my recent call for the use of new technologies to boost the effectiveness of the Green Party, here we get a master-class in how this can be translated into an incredibly precise voter targeting strategy. The software deployed, called “Activate” was based upon that used by the Obama presidential campaign and allowed voting data to be streamed directly to smart phones, allowing a dynamic two-way collection of canvassing and knocking-up data to be recorded, as well as providing activists with written verbal prompts to use on the doorstep. The GPS function on the phone is used to locate and direct you onto your next target voter. I have to say, I’m extremely impressed.
This was supported by a highly effective strategy on social media sites, primarily on Facebook and Twitter. SNP activists tagged voters in “I’m voting SNP” photographs which were uploaded to Facebook. By doing so, it advertised their support directly to the feeds of their friends (and with each Facebook user having an average of 120 friend, this is a substantial viral endorsement). The SNP used software called “Nation Builder” to identify and collate data on those who supported their candidates and party on social-media sites, allowing them to target them specifically and use them as a conduit for getting their message out.
Yes, this approach costs money – and to get the most out of it, you would need individuals employed to monitor and follow up on these leads, but I am convinced that we need to start investing in this level of sophistication in Green Party campaigning and viral marketing. Because I’m sure that after the disappointing results for all the major parties at the last election, they will have seen the writing on the wall and will be sprinting towards this approach as fast as their cash-lined pockets can take them.