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The Utöya election and lessons in social media campaigning

“I for one want to vote the Utøya-generation into office.”

I’m not certain where I read that statement now: on Facebook, Twitter, blogs.

It probably flashed past me frequently on all those platforms after 22/7, and after the municipal and county elections last moth it’s clear that many people did exactly that:

Several of those who so tragically lost their lives on Utöya were elected, as were several of those who survived the atrocities.

That must be unparalleled: How, as a symbolic action, people voted for those who lost their lives but who’s names had not removed from the election lists.

As for those who survived the atrocities and were elected, it will be interesting to see how their influence will play out.

22/7 was certainly a big influence on the election, but mostly in a positive way.

Let it be that after 22/7 too many politicians just trotted out the same old slogans and solutions which now feels oddly like ghosts from a bygone age.

There were also politicians who met the tragedy with great compassion and strength, who somehow became much more real, more human as a result of it.

That side of them was probably always there, just now we got to see it.

I thought a lot better of many politicians for it. Not that it made me vote for someone I otherwise wouldn’t have voted for, but I hope it will lead to a wider recognition that letting your guard down can be a good thing – even for a politician.

Also, for the first time in perhaps a decade or more I felt good about how I cast my vote. See, in the words of an acquaintance, I voted for the internet party.

Not that there is a party by that name in Norway, but it was the first election where social media played a major role for me:

I voted for lots of really clever people I know from the Internet (in Norway you can cast personal votes for your favorite candidates from more than one party at municipal and county elections).

But among those candidates there wasn’t one I voted for because I’d seen him or her with a Twitter-profile stating their name and their political party.

I never follow those kind of Twitter-users back. All the folks I voted for were people I know, either just online, or online and in real life, for a long time and not primarily as politicians.

They were all people I “know” because of the work they do, the blogs they write, or because we have interests in common.

In fact, while casting my vote I found myself thinking I could easily have voted for a blogger I’m a big fan of despite being on the opposite side of the political divide.

What I’m trying to say, both when it comes to my “internet party” and those politicians who let their guard down and thereby became more real, more human after 22/7:

Personality matters, humanity matters, being real/genuine/allowing yourself to be vulnerable and go off script is a good thing.

Nothing revolutionary there you may say. In fact it’s all very Cluetrain.

But it is also quite the opposite of the social media strategy many politicians and/or political parties seem to subscribe to.

To them just getting a Twitter-profile spewing out politically correct or mundane and largely uninteresting stuff seems to equal a social media strategy.

Well, it’s not a very successful social media strategy.

It has to be personal.

Not necessarily in the sense that you have to share personal stuff, far from, but you have to get a sense of the person behind the social media profile even if it’s just their genuine passion for a certain subject.

But it has to be genuine, and it’s definitely not a short-term fix.



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