21 May 2010

Campaigning 2.0: Will it matter here?

How much does social media matter in winning an election? That’s the question on the minds of every political junkie in Sweden right now. The national election is coming up on September 19th, the first time Swedes will be electing members of parliament since Obama changed the rules of campaigning. Can the seven largest parties Twitter, Facebook, blog, and You Tube their way into the Riksdag?

Jesper Strömbäck, professor at Mittuniversitet in Sundsvall, is one of Sweden’s foremost experts in political communications. If you can read Swedish, check out his analysis of why social media won’t decide this election. And for further reading, don’t miss Politik 2.0, an ambitious book/web guide for Swedish politicians from Brit Stakston, consultant at JMW.

Here’s my take-- based on what I saw on the campaign trail for Obama in Virginia. Yes, Obama put a lot of investment in his social media strategy. It mobilized his base of supporters and helped him gain an army of volunteers and a flood of donations. But he backed this up with an extremely well-organized and well-executed field operation on the ground. He also spent more than any previous presidential candidate on traditional media, including radio and TV spots, and extended ads like this one.

Swedes get so excited about the possibilities of social media. And rightly so, since everyone and their “mormor” here seems to have a Twitter account. But the situation is different in the US. Many of the voters I spoke to in rural southwestern Virginia were lucky if they had a phone line, let alone an internet connection.

So yes, let’s see what effect social media will have this September. But I’m also equally interested to see how much old-fashioned (and Obama-tested) methods like door-knocking will matter in the upcoming Swedish election.


Elizabeth Walentin may be new to the blogging scene, but she's an old hand when it comes to strategic communications. An American with five years in Sweden under her belt, her areas of expertise include presentation training, media relations, and political strategy. She is a communications consultant and head of Education at JG Communication.

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