A huge thanks to the team at Marketing magazine for allowing me to be one the panelists who answered their "Around The Table" question for the November 2007 issue: Should politicians market themselves on MySpace?
My response was trimmed to fit within the available space. Here's the slightly longer version that I submitted:
MySpace is the largest social network in Australia by a country mile, but politicians in Australia have failed to mobilise the MySpace generation. When you read their MySpace pages, it’s easy to see why.
Most Australian politicians on MySpace have used it to do little more than rehash media releases and newspaper columns — as if the MySpace generation doesn’t know how to find The Australian’s website without their help. When politicians try to distribute weighty information in the online equivalent of a high school cafeteria, is it any surprise that they’re either ignored or caught in a food fight?
To mobilise the MySpace generation, politicians should provide resources, training and a scary amount of freedom to the Young Liberals and Young Labor. With this encouragement and material support, they’d create the kind of MySpace pages that politicians could never imagine.
Why wasn’t there a competition to see which branch of Young Labor could enroll the most 18-year-olds to vote before John Howard called the election? The first prize of course would be backstage access to a gig. Why didn’t the Liberal students societies at every university use camcorders to video their new members during orientation week? The topic would be “what young people really want”. How hard would it be to grab a laughable quote from any side of politics, remix it in rap style and make it available for free download as a ringtone? This is not happening on MySpace, despite the obvious opportunity — because this kind of thinking is not obvious to most politicians.
There are plenty of places on the internet where young and old can debate serious issues, from Senator Andrew Bartlett’s excellent blog through to sites like National Forum. MySpace reaches more voters than both of these sites, but if politicians can’t engage with MySpace users on their own terms, they should encourage Young Labor and the Young Liberals to do it on their behalf.