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Australian Labor's Digital Strategy

From the two Coalition speakers at CMPM2014 we now move on to an ALP-themed panel, starting with Skye Laris, the Director of Digital for the Australia Labor Party. She says that in 2013 Labor used online media to push power down and out, trying to engage with a new supporter base and increasing its email address base tenfold over the course of a year. It has also amassed a strong following on Facebook, and used Facebook advertising extensively during the campaign.

This has resulted in a 1000% in online donations (to $800,000) from 2010 to 2013, and a 1500% increase in donors (over 10,000). 15,000 signed up online to become Labor volunteers. Such contacts were also used to source real stories about how Liberal policies would affect them, and to disseminate these stories through social media. Photos and other media generated by supporters were collected and curated online.

Once advertising is comparatively cheap and has a wide reach; it is also easier to target effectively at specific demographics. It leverages organic networks, and can build on organic user-led distribution by reinforcing stories which are already being disseminated widely. This also provides better opportunities for participation in campaigning, especially for people who are time-poor and cannot engage in other ways; it also generates immediate feedback on policies, agendas, and campaigns.

But online campaigning still has a long way to go. Campaigning by press release hasn't yet been replaced, and better audience targetting and understanding must still be developed. The party must still learn to listen more attentively to its audience. In the 2016 campaign, then, word of mouth will play an even more important role as a marketing tool – email and Facebook will each reach a million people, and tap into their further online and offline relationships.

Overall, this is a step back to pre-MSM campaigning techniques which creates a new demand for traditional organising skills, away from 1980s- and 1990s-style campaigning. New media make such skills more powerful because they combine relationships and scale.