Recently (as in the past week), I became a member of the Māori Party. For transparency, it cost me $2 and I gave an $8 koha. Having never been a member of any political party before I was somewhat dubious. I joined because I wanted to participate in the discussions around Māori economic development and self-determination as well as see how they are going to run their 2014 election campaign.
Whether or not I will cast my vote in their favour on election day will depend on a number of factors, particularly since I have a huge aversion to the State and I want to see how intensely the Māori Party are going to back the kinds of regulations, or taxes on certain things that I view as wholly undesirable, e.g. the awful sugar or fat tax, which I see as a paternalist tax on the poor, and also what kind of stand they will take toward the Greens progressive pro-choice policy. Of course, there are numerous other things that I will consider, but at the moment those two things come to mind.
Unfortnately, I have stumbled across a wrinkle that quickly needs ironing out – online communication and social media.
Matthew Beveridge (as many will know) authors the Social Media & The 2014 General Election website. On it, he compiles the statistical usage of MP’s, Candidates and the Political Party’s on Twitter and analyses their level of genuine engagement. He also looks at the graphics, timing and context of when and how tweets are sent. As expected, his blog suggests that the Internet Party are doing an astounding job of tweet traffic as are the Greens. In respect of the Māori Party, Te Ururoa Flavell is putting in an epic effort to increase his genuine engagement. While the effort is admirable, the party as a whole must do more. If consdiering other newcomers to Twitter, e.g. Internet Party Leader Laila Harre has made a valiant effort in that regard, one of my favourites being the content linked to in this tweet:
I by no means expect the Māori Party to be tweeting ,gifs of that kind, by the way, but I do expect prompt responses on Twitter or Facebook or by email from the Party account and some humour wouldn’t go astray. Having had the pleasure of being in a room when Dr Pita Sharples is giving a presentation humour certainly exists as part of the culture of the party.
Going back to my initial point, when I joined the Māori Party, I expected at the very least an automated email saying Thanks for joining and some general info about contact information and some graphic that indicated the Māori Party were preaparing for campaign mode. But nothing, except a username and password which I’m not quite sure what to do with at the moment.
I appreciate that the traditional kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face/eye to eye) approach is favoured by the Māori Party, and I agree that it is and will always be very important. But I also think if the Māori Party want to make it through this election they must increase their online presence through genuine engagement. As Beveridge noted in a twitter conversation, social media would enable the Māori Party to tap into a market of under 25 year old Māori. Currently, Mana have a monopoly on that demographic on Facebook, and the Internet Party are increasingly appealing to them on Twitter.
Mike Treen, an IMP advocate writes:
Once the campaigning really starts, if the Māori Party are largely absent in social media, they will not be able to counter the influence that will attempt to undermine the party as National lapdogs. This doesn’t mean responding with eye for eye attacks, the Māori Party should be able to rise above that level of politicking, but should also emphasise their independence as a party that can and is willing to work across the spectrum. I note that the Māori Party have a Facebook page that has a mere 2,039 likes and a Twitter following of a meagre 1481 followers. If the Māori Party have a dedicated Social Media person, then they need to take the Party to the next level of engagement. If not, they need to get one, and now.