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Social Media tsar’s criminal use of twitter.

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Sharing is good right? Well not always. As with all parts of life, a huge part of any organisation’s social media strategy is knowing when to shut the hell up.

Labour’s so-called and much lauded social media tsar,  yesterday committed a potentially disastrous gaffe when she tweeted results of postal votes for the upcoming election.

Kerry McCarthy (@kerry4MP) is the twitter evangelist who was responsible for training up Labour politicians in the art of teh interwebs. Oops.

Under the Representation of the People Act it is illegal to reveal details of votes cast before the polling day as it may influence those yet to vote. Avon and Somerset police are now investigating this potentially criminal act.

Other twitter users pretty quickly realised something was amiss and let Ms McCarthy know. Blogger Darren Bridgman was first on the scene.

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After briefly trying to defend her position, and presumably consulting with those who know better, @Kerry4MP deleted the tweets. But as we all know, news travels fast and word had got out. Here was her response to the BBC.

On hearing the results of a random and unscientific sample of postal votes, I posted them on Twitter. It was a thoughtless thing to do, and I very quickly realised that it was not appropriate to put such information in the public domain.

“Quickly realised” but not quick enough. At its heart, this is not a social media error. Kerry McCarthy made a simple mistake. She should have known it was illegal to share that information with the public and not done it. This error could have been made when talking to a journalist or writing a press release but in this case she is not only the source of the information but the editor and publisher. What this incident proves, if more proof be needed, is that in this world of instant communication, you have to be really sure of your message and in control of the information you choose to share.

Battleground Google: Labour vs. The Sun

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Today’s announcement that The Sun will be supporting the Tories in the next election has effectively marked the beginning of what will be a lengthy election press campaign. But, unlike ‘79 and ‘97, this battle will be won and lost not in the printed press, but on the web.

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The Sun has drawn first blood with the sensational headline “Labour’s lost it”. The online version of this article is juicy enough link-bait to already hit the first page of Google for the search term “labour”.

Search returns for "labour"

There it is, at the time of writing, in fifth position (not counting news results). Ouch.

As well as associated articles, dossiers and microsites also to be found on the sun website, they are also using PPC as part of their attack strategy.

The terms labour, labour party and labour conference all bring up one of the following ads linking to the topic dedicated Feeling Blue section of their site.

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And they seem to be pre-empting a response by buying up their own name.

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It’s not been all one way traffic, though. Labour were pretty quick to respond with their own ad that plays on a pretty emotive anti-sun topic: Hillsborough. I took this screenshot this morning:

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The gloves are off.

However, Labour don’t seem to be buying as many or as broad search terms. If they want to compete, they should be buying up all the search terms the Sun is and directly attacking the paper on its own turf. That could require some deep PPC pockets. In fact, as I check now the ad isn’t showing. Has the budget dried up already?

The US presidential election digital campaigns demonstrated the importance of rapid response to on and offline trending topics. In particular the paid search campaigns for both camps had to respond quickly and effectively to online buzz and breaking news. Eric Frenchman, the guy in charge of John McCain’s PPC has blogged about using search for political or news rapid response.

So now it’s the UK’s turn and although I hope the tactics might not get quite as… dubious as in the American election, I think Search and social media will be two areas where the battle will be viciously fought.

Interesting times lie ahead.

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Update: It seems Labour didn’t have anything directly to do with the Hillsborough ads, the Telegraph reports. The ads stopped showing around 2 the afternoon. Either there was a very small budget allocated or they were pulled. Over enthusiastic supporters or plausible deniability? Either way it’s a shame, I’d have liked to see a real scrap!

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