I’ll debate you any time, any place, any social media platform

The General Election is hotting up. No one knows which party leader will be in Number 10 come May, let alone what the next government will look like. In recent weeks, the UK public have been informed by a range of televised debates between the UKs leading political parties. However in these very closely controlled and formatted programmes, the core issues being debated are often curtailed prematurely, if only to ensure Masterchef begins on time. 

However, this is 2015 – and the political debate never ends after the debate. Politicians can challenge each other during planned and regulated TV debates – indeed they are very good at it. However, Twitter is increasingly being used as a platform where leaders can land killer blows and get the last word in a very public arena.

Last week Ed Miliband took to Twitter to call out David Cameron, asking him for a one-on-one debate after the Prime Minister did not take part in the latest BBC TV debate with other opposition parties.

Miliband’s premise was simple – he has a plan for the UK which he thinks is better than the PMs, and he’d like to be proved right or wrong.

Cameron remained silent online, however Nick Clegg was quick to hijack Miliband’s ultimatum – getting in the middle of the Conservative/Labour tussle – by proclaiming he would debate Miliband “any time, any place, anywhere”, even if Cameron wouldn’t.

In this election campaign social channels are being used in a much more targeted and direct way, and time will tell if it’s the social media strategy that seals the deal.

With the 2015 general election is playing out on mobile phones for millions of voters as the battle enters its final few weeks. Many of those voters, particularly 18-34 year olds, are turning to Twitter where election news breaks first.

According to a study commissioned by Twitter and carried out by @Promise_CSpace almost a third of 18-34 year old monthly Twitter users discover political news stories or information by scrolling through their social media feeds. And they don’t only scroll and discover content in their timelines, they also actively search for it: 24% said they searched social media sites for election information.

The research also found that fewer 18-34 year-old Twitter users intend to vote than all Twitter users (74% versus 83%). Figures such as these suggest there is a real opportunity to influence younger voters accessing Twitter on their smartphones for election information.

For many people, the fact that Ed Miliband challenged David Cameron to debate with him using Twitter might not register as having the same impact as a front page proclamation in the Times, but in some circles, particularly amongst younger voters in the UK, this is where the battle for votes is won and lost.

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