Leaders debate – Twitter comes into its own

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The leaders’ debate last night between David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg produced some interesting, even surprising results.

Not least was how many people went online to compare, contrast, discuss and participate. The ITV micro-portal, built specifically for the purpose, Facebook and pollster’s websites all groaned under massive volumes of web traffic.

And Twitter processed more than 30 tweets every second over the 90-minute television slot. That’s more than 160,000 tweets – and in a very short timespan.

Research on policies also plays a part: the UK Online Measurement Company have demonstrated that the Conservatives’ website was the most popular political website last month in the UK, attracting 5,000 visitors a day, well ahead of Labour’s.

Our own figures suggest that parliamentary candidates are receiving no less than 30% month-on-month increases in traffic to their own websites.

Critics of the Internet have argued that it won’t play an important part in the General Election 2010. In one respect they’re right – the Internet does not replace door-to-door canvassing, in the same way that an email wouldn’t replace a job interview.

But it is important that the main parties and their candidates engage with voters online, because once the front door is closed and the politician’s leaflet is read, the debate isn’t only in the pub, outside the supermarket and on the bus. It’s online.