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Social media can make or break an election


See our research on how the parties are doing here – with Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign being the best illustration of a politician successfully utilising the might of social media.  But it can go wrong, too.   Some of the most famous examples of politicians engaging with social media have been when things have gone awry – with ‘twitter gaffes’ now appearing so frequently they should get their own slot on the news.

The shadow chancellor’s famous ‘Balls up’, when he tweeted his own name after trying to monitor his personal brand-image is a particularly cringe-worthy example.  The right wing press have refused to let Balls live it down, with the Telegraph marking the three-year anniversary of ‘Ed Balls Day’ last year with an article devoted to the shadow Chancellor’s mistake.  The repercussions for an off tweet can be far more severe than a beasting in the Tory-graph, however.  Former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry found that out after she tweeted a photo of a house in her constituency adorned with several flags of St George and the owner's white van parked outside on the driveway, under the caption “Image from Rochester” – a tweet that provoked accusations of snobbery.

However, the risk of ‘Ballsing up’ shouldn’t deter politicians from engaging with social media.  A third of 18-24 year-olds say that social media will influence their vote in this election, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori.  British politicians can’t afford to ignore this section of the electorate, especially as more than 3 million of them will be casting their ballots for the first time come May.

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