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What can marketers learn from the first ever ‘Twitter’ election?

With next month’s General Election looking set to be the first to take place under the new digital world order, how are the major political parties making use of the communications tools at their disposal, and what can marketers learn from them, asks Margaret Farmakis?


t’s being billed as Britain’s “first Twitter election”, but it’s easy to forget that this year’s general election is also Britain’s first since the advent of YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites ushered in a new era of Internet communications.

While these new forms of communication certainly have their merits, it is my opinion that they can only ever be a complement to traditional marketing activities – such as print, outdoor, direct mail and email. After all, there’s a limit to how much a party or politician can say about how they’d cut the deficit in the 140 characters that Twitter allows.

And though the email channel may no longer be generating the same breathless headlines as flavour-of-the-month Twitter, it’s still recognised as one of the most cost-effective marketing methods around, and should be an integral part of any communications programme. Correctly executed, email is a low cost way of communicating personally with voters – or customers – which provides the necessary space for in-depth discussion of news, issues and policy. But if you expected the UK’s political parties to be making good use of email we carried out recently, you’d be wrong. According to recent research from Return Path, all of the UK’s main political parties are making fundamental errors that are costing them opportunities to influence voters in this increasingly tightly-fought election.


So here’s our guide to the best and worst email performers among the political parties. We’ve given the parties marks out of 10 for how well they performed on each aspect of their campaign, alongside our own top tips on how commercial senders can follow email best

18 April 2010

practice and eschew the easily-avoidable errors that all the parties made during the two month period of our research programme.

Data collection



Lib Dems: UKIP:

Greens: DUP: SNP: BNP:

data on subscribers, which many may find surprising.


5/10 5/10 3/10 3/10 0/10 0/10 0/10 0/10


Collecting personal, geographic and demographic data enables senders to tailor their messages to voters, so that they can address the key issues that face particular constituencies or age groups and provide subscribers with more relevant communications. It also enables senders to greet the recipient by name, which is immediately more engaging than a depersonalised message, which just looks like a mass mailer.

Both Labour and the Conservatives collected names and post codes from subscribers to their email programmes, but failed to use this information to personalise or target their messages to individual subscribers, harming the effectiveness of their campaigns. The Liberal Democrats and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only took subscribers’ names. The Green Party, Scottish National Party (SNP), British National Party (BNP) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) all failed to collect any personal, demographic or geographic

Sending a timely welcome message that arrives shortly after sign-up provides short-term reinforcement of the subscription, and encourages subscribers to begin browsing and clicking through to news, social media and other content, as well as actively participating in fundraising or other party-related activities. Without a welcome message, subscribers are likely to forget why they signed up to the email programme in the first place, increasing the chances that they will click the “This is Spam” button when they do receive a message. Welcome messages are also a simple and

Welcome Messages


BNP: All other parties:

10/10 5/10 0/10

effective method of validating email addresses, and provide an opportunity to begin a dialogue with subscribers.

“Perhaps the most astonishing result was that half of the parties studied (50%) didn’t manage to send a single regular email during the two months of the study.” Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40
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