The debate around Britain’s membership of the European is never far from the surface, and with a Conservative MP trying to get legislation through that will trigger an in or out referendum come 2017, it has been a hot topic in Westminster in recent days and weeks.
Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg gave a speech on the subject yesterday. Normally this would not be very attention grabbing, but his party launched a huge social media campaign in support of staying in the EU, tying in with the speech that was being made.
The campaign centred around the #whyiamIN hashtag, which allowed pro-Europeans to tweet a reason why they support Britain’s ongoing membership of the European union. It received high profile support from entrepreneur Richard Branson, who tweeted his 3.5million followers twice using the hashtag. He also published a blog post entitled “Why I am in”. In it he said:
It should go without saying that being a part of the European Union is better for all countries involved.
In the end #whyiamIN was included in thousands of tweets by hundreds of individuals and organisations, and the hashtag trended in the UK for about 5 hours. It battled for top spot for most of the day with Sunderland’s announcement that Gus Poyet was their new manager. This shows that the social media approach taken by the party gave the issue much more mainstream buy-in than it necessarily would have had there just been another speech by a politician covered by the newspapers.
Here on the Wall we often report on social media disasters – the well meant hashtag the goes horribly wrong (I’m looking at you Susan Boyle,) or the online q+a that gets hijacked by the haters. This though was well crafted, as the #whyiamIN hashtag is unambiguous and fairly hard for opponents and mischief makers to twist. It resulted in the Liberal Democrats finding an active online base of people who are engaged and pro-European that they can Â now utilise in future elections and campaigns
Of course, the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg are no strangers to viral trends. During the 2010 general election campaign #iagreewithNick, and #NickCleggsfault became full blown internet memes, and that’s before Clegg gained YouTube, and chart, success with his musical apology.
Yesterday was different though. It was a planned campaign that reflects that there have been huge moves by the Liberal Democrat party to boost its social offering. Output from their official twitter channels has increased and become more irreverent in recent weeks, and rollouts of other digital campaigning tools are underway. Under the party’s new head of media Phil Reilly and new digital director Steve Pitman, social media is being prioritised a lot more in the party’s communication, and yesterday was one example of that coming to fruition.