Local political parties in The Netherlands are using social media, such as Twitter and YouTube during their campaigns for the upcoming local council elections, reports NOS.nl. Some local politicians are however questioning whether or not they actually reach large groups of voters with these social networks. “I’ve noticed personally that Twitter is mainly used by politicians, media and companies and much less by private citizens”, states Patricia Wevelkate-Hertgers of the PvdA in Doesburg.
Paul Vermast of GroenLinks in Dronten wonders who actually reads his ‘Tweets’: “It is impossible for me to estimate this. I am regularly surprised by people from whom I know don’t use Twitter still know what I say on Twitter. It’s however very rare that I receive questions from unknown citizens.” He reported this to NOS NET, an internet project in which the NOS uses the knowledge and experience of local politicians during the local council elections.
The politicians mainly hope to reach citizens through social media who otherwise would have remained outside their line of sight. Aukje de Vries of the VVD Leeuwarden says: “Internet and social media networks help to increase our reach. We reach an entirely different demographic than we do through other activities.”
A big advantage of social media is that these are well followed by local press. Local newspapers, magazines and broadcasters remain of crucial importance during campaigns in which you want to reach as many voters as possible, the political parties state. Hélène Oppatja of the PvdA in Alphen aan den Rijn: “A sensitive remark on Twitter can quickly lead to a telephone call from a journalist with publicity as result.”
The PvdA in Amsterdam has chosen for a campaign that synchronises the traditional campaign with the social media networks. Meanwhile almost all leading candidates are using Twitter. Some of them only started just before the local election campaigns.
Some politicians indicate that they have no time for social networks. “Hyves, Twitter and Facebook cost a lot of time and we simply don’t have this time as a small local party. We work on a volunteer basis as politicians next to our real jobs”, says Peter Westing from Leefbaar Hilversum.
Either way, it is a very interesting report by the NOS. Regardless of what individual politicians might say, social media has become an integral part of politics and it will be interesting to see how governments deal with this additional media challenge.