It was the National Party Conference this weekend. It was held in Wellington. One of the main aspects that has come out is a focus on the party campaign hashtag, #TeamKey. Not only is there a hashtag, there is also a website, Teamkey.co.nz. There are a number of issues with this hashtag.
I have mentioned before that obviously National are putting a lot of weight in the John Key brand. This can be seen in many different places, but in the social media sphere you can see it with the focus on the John Key Facebook vs the National Party page. John Key’s Facebook page has 149,000+ likes vs 13,500+. This is also the case with the focus on Key in the hash tag. This may be a short-term benefit, but in the long run it will be a worthless waste. John Key will at some point in the future stop being the leader of the National party, when that happens, all of the social media capital and profile all of a sudden be worth nothing. There will not be any way to easily transfer the 150,000+ likes to the accounts for the new leader. Where as the Greens have taken the other route and focused on building the profile of their party page, at the expense of the leaders. The choice of hashtag has already prompted Twitter users to posit opinions about the choice.
This focus on John Key is another symptom of the shift to a presidential style of politics that has been underway for a number of years. It is reinforced by reporters and the media, such as Patrick Gower asking the PM about if he would stay for a full third term.
On top of this focus on John Key, the social media presence is also focused on simply pushing out the official lines, without any form of engagement. A prime example was the posting of 27 tweets in 23 mins during his Leader’s speech at the conference. All with #TeamKey included. One of the main aspects of social media is engagement and interaction. Which National are lacking.
Last month Key claimed Twitter was filled with “trolls and bottom feeders.” He hasn’t changed his mind – and says his account is used for broadcasting a message, not engaging with voters.
Social media is not the be all and end all of a campaign, it is simply another tool in the campaign tool box, but at the same time it isn’t something you can turn on and have work right away. It is something that takes time and effort to build. It requires genuine engagement, not just using it to push out press releases. Which is what some senior National MPs seem to think.
As is to be expected, there has been an attempt by those who disagree with the National Party to bombard the hashtag and dominate it. The party, and their advisors, obviously foresaw this, and made sure that the social media amalgamation aspects of the teamkey.co.nz website were moderated. This has prevented the worst of the comments from making it on to the party branded website, but at the same time this has resulted in it becoming nothing more than a National party back patting session.
Even though they have tried to build a website that will amalgamate social media content into one place, this only works if the people who you are featuring are actually using social media. There is a Team Key section of the website, where you can look at the latest content from the various social media accounts of each MP. But for this to be of any use, they actually need to be using social media.
The National Party have tried to build a campaign focused hashtag for the party to use to engage with voters and supporters,as well as using a personality focused, presidential style approach to the campaign, which even the PM alludes to when asked about the hashtag:
Asked why it wasn’t going to be called TeamNational, Prime Minister John Key said he didn’t know because no one asked him what it should be called.
“I suppose it’s meant to have a personal touch,” he said.
But there is no point in putting in all this effort if there is not the support base to make use of it, which, as the weekly Twitter stats of National MPs would suggest, isn’t there. Every week the National MPs are at the bottom end of most of the statistics. They have a lower level of engagement than other parties. I will leave the last words to the PM:
“A lot of information goes over the internet, it will be a great way of sharing information and voters can keep up in real-time.”