SNP steps out into the post Obama election era…

Here’s a fascinating story from the Scottish political space, not least wearing my own Slugger Consults hat. There is, and I think rightly so, some scepticism about whether all this activity and emphasis on social networking means anything in real political terms.

As you know we’re running a series of Twitter election meet ups with UTV (there’s still spaces in Ballymena and East Belfast) but it’s a completely different matter as to whether it ever works for a political party.

Yet the SNP seem to making some progress. They  have been working with a prelaunch version of ‘Nation Builder‘ an off the shelf package built by the guys who built the Obama campaign’s software (it’s only launching this afternoon, so we’re ahead of the pack with this story)…

They set it up 60 days before election day, so they are about day 28/9 at the moment.

I like it because, 1 it didn’t cost a packet (low four figures); and 2, it is driven not by an outside agency (like Blue State Digital), but energised and developed from within the party.

Critically it is being driven from leadership level (the whole cabinet is on Twitter), with buy in from all the candidates; although inevitably this leads to variable quality outputs, once they are in the system there are other things they can access.

Most prominently on the front page is the donation button. This allows the party to raise cash in small amounts for the general war chest and more specifically to pay for ads in the Scottish national press.

The software allows them to do two interesting things: to see who is giving most, but also who is getting their mates to donate. In doing the latter you accumulate ‘political capital’ and for the rest of the campaign they are planning celebrate a ‘star activist’ who brings in the biggest number of secondary donations.

The site has only been open four weeks, but the SNP say they are getting double digit growth percentages week on week.

Finally, and this is my favourite, go to SNP Studios. Here you can load up videos to your YouTube or Picassa account and at the same time share it with the SNP. You can even share an AudioBoo without having an account. It draws in voter generated content, which subject to approval the party can repurpose.

The clever stuff though is the way it fits your database into Twitter and Facebook. The software uses filters to track who is following you on Twitter, who’s given money, and where people are. The event software decentralises organisation and uses Facebook (estimated to have something like 65-80% of the UK’s voter base.

Does it work? Well, we won’t know until after the election results come out. But here’s a rough (very rough) guide to how the SNP website is performing in comparison using the Alexa ratings:

GB RankGlobal rankLinks into site
Liberal Democrats82,5621,656,489166
Scottish Labour99,2512,744,577116
Scottish Cons96,6492,583,66170
Scottish GreensN/A4,727,478135

We’ll be reporting back on the reality, after the election…

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  • Interesting software. But when are Americans going to understand that not all elections are run the same way as theirs? We don’t need to register voters for each poll, and we need more options than yes/maybe/no for voter intentions when managing voting transfers in multi-member constituencies.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, that’s an interesting point re PR in NI and Scotland. It does have some analysis tools in the back in that do sentiment analysis so admins can grade the feedback.

    Pricewise, it’s a much more viable option than buying in Blue State Digital for a fairly conventional push campaign like Fianna Fail did… But you need someone on the inside planning, facilitating and galvinising the organisation…

  • Well, the comparison is with either:

    a) the companies that run the whole service for you, as one US one is doing for (I think) the Labour Party (at least they only have to customise their software for Wales and Scotland, not Northern Ireland)

    or (b) do-it-yourself using CiviCMS on top of Drupal.

    PS. Don’t bother about, it hasn’t been updated for years, although back then the SNP heavily customised it for use in Scotland. We were both rewriting PHP to cope with the built-in US election process assumptions.