Public affairs firms are gearing up for the first UK 'internet election' by setting up dedicated websites showcasing sophisticated online opinion tracking tools.
With party strategists expecting social media sites to play a key role in the general election, lobbying consultancies are preparing to monitor sentiment on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Edelman and Fishburn Hedges are leading the way, with election microsites that went live in the past week.
Edelman has developed a 'TweetTracker' to gauge opinion on Twitter.
The tool will focus on measuring opinion around the three main party leaders and key issues, judging whether people approve or disapprove.
Another tool, TweetLevel, enables Edelman to rank politicians, PPCs, journalists, commentators and bloggers by their influence on the discussion around the election on Twitter - generating a top 150 most influential ranking.
Edelman's public affairs MD Alex Bigg said: 'On a daily basis, we will be tracking discussion on Twitter around a particular issue, whether that be the leaders' debates, a party leader or an election issue such as the NHS.
'We will also be measuring influence on Twitter throughout the campaign and tracking how the top 150 political influencers change, profiling the issues they most Tweet about.'
Fishburn Hedges' election website includes a 'Mood-o-Meter', powered by Metrica.
Director Simon Redfern said: 'Tweetminster is doing an amazing job at analysing online sentiment of politicians.
What we have done is move things a step further.
'On this page you can see pie charts showing positive comments on Brown, Cameron and Clegg in both social and traditional media.
'For a start, you can see that Brown is a lot more popular online than he is offline, which bears out some of the other reports. But also you can see sentiment about each party online and offline.
'What we will be doing during the campaign is commenting on who leads opinion - does reaction hit first online and then get carried offline, or do traditional media still make the political weather?'
Fishburn Hedges also rec-ently released research suggesting that most parliamentary candidates will use social networking tools to communicate with their constituents if elected.
The agency teamed up with ComRes to survey 101 prospective parliamentary candidates likely to win or retain their seats in the election.