Can #Milifandom give Labour the edge?

Labour leader Ed Miliband received a surprising boost in popularity this week after the #Milifandom hashtag took off on Twitter. But will this digital support translate into votes come 7 May?

Ed Beckham: Twitter users used the site to show support for the Labour leader
Ed Beckham: Twitter users used the site to show support for the Labour leader

Created by 17-year-old Twitter user @twcuddleston, the purpose of the hashtag was to encourage voters to focus on the party policies and not rely on spin-led media portrayal of party leaders:

According to analysis from FleishmanHillard, #Milifandom has been used 24,800 times, with users attempting to rebrand the Labour leader in a positive light by using favourably photoshopped pictures and edited Vines. 

Some of the best creations included Ed Milibond:

...and Ed Milibowie.

Another popular meme included a Vine of MC Miliband challenging David Cameron to a one-on-one debate.

Inevitably, a rival hashtag dubbed #cameronettes sprung up as a rebuttal. This was the brainchild of 21-year-old Exeter University economics and politics student and Conservative supporter Charlie Evans.

Despite circulating pictures of Cameron posing with boyband OneDirection and merging him with Superman, the hashtag generated 4,599 mentions and was greeted with a hostile reaction. Many Twitter users mocked it as a desperate attempt to piggyback on the organic success of #Milifandom.

And spare a thought for poor Nick Clegg. Attempts to spread the love for the Lib Dem's leader with #cleggaholic registered an embarrassing 19 mentions on Twitter at the time of writing.

Will digital help swing votes?

Labour has consistently won election-based battles in cyberspace. The party has the most user-friendly website and commands 35 per cent share across social media versus 25 per cent for the Conservatives.

In traditional polls, the numbers are closer with Labour and Tories polling at 34 per cent apiece.

So could the emergence Twitter campaigns such as #Milifandom make a significant difference to the election on 7 May? 

Not this time, according to Victoria Barton senior account director at Ketchum. "When it comes to new electioneering tactics and engagement you don't necessarily see the fallout in the first two elections – it's usually the third," Barton told PRWeek.

"If you think about when people got a telephone in their home and when phone-canvassing became prevalent, it was a few elections down the line.

"Twitter has become more relevant in our day-to-day lives and in next election we will start to see it have more influence on the outcome, mainly as the social-media generation will go to the polls."

As for the outcome on 7 May, Barton boldly predicts a shaky coalition and even mooted the possiblity that it will fall apart in the next 18 months, triggering a second election.

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