A week into the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) election campaign, the party’s personal social networking platform, Labor Connect, has 1080 members, however the majority of members are yet to interact with each other.
Labor Connect, runs on a proprietary technology platform called Campaign IQ, created exclusively for Labor by Community Engine and the Campaign and Communications Group.
Community Engine managing director, Piers Hogarth-Scott, described the tool as similar to Facebook.
“It provides a forum for the party to connect and collaborate with the community in an inclusive and transparent collaborative manner,” Hogarth-Scott told Computerworld Australia.
“You can make friends with other community members, you can message your friends, leave posts on your friend’s walls, form groups around particular issues you care about, invite friends to join those groups and have discussions around those groups.”
Despite sporting many similar features and capabilities to Facebook, Labor Connect’s user activity and interaction is limited in comparison to the support indicated on Julia Gillard's and the ALP’s Facebook pages.
To further involvement, the site has a "Get Involved" page where supporters are encouraged to participate in Think Tank debates, although at time of writing has a total of just 74 ideas or policy suggestions, 80 comments around 2 issues; health and economic reform.
Users can also join conversations on the ALP's blog, sign up to receive newsletters, volunteer to recruit other supporters and spread the message via letterbox drops.
In addition to Labor Connect, the party still sees a requirement for mainstream social networks to spread its message, integrating Twitter feeds and enabling ALP forum members to share content with the social networks.
The party is active on popular social media platforms with Facebook and Twitter accounts for the ALP (1,792 fans), Julia Gillard (41,479 fans), in addition to an ALP MySpace (23,792 friends) profile, YouTube channel and a Flickr profile.
Campaign and Communications Group (responsible for the political components of Campaign IQ), managing director, Michael Allen, said the ALP recognise the significance of social media as a political campaign tool as demonstrated by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
“We recognise the power of social media as a way of communicating political campaigns. I think we all realise that social media is a part of political communication, on par with the advent of television and the telephone.” Allen said.
Hogarth-Scott agrees, “It’s also about recognising that social networking is a great enabler to the conversation and it’s moving from a simple broadcast mechanism to one of a conversation with the community and that’s the most powerful aspect of it.”