The power of the internet as a marketing medium has been embraced by the majority of political parties, and their members. In Australia, every major party has a web presence, and a growing number of national, state and local politicians have their own sites. Some have even entered the 'youth markets' of MySpace and YouTube. A prime example of this move is Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.
ALP leader Kevin Rudd has launched a new site for his 2007 electoral campaign with the slogan Kevin07. It's a highly stylized site that looks like it has come straight out of any of the many political satire movies, lots of prime colours, big and flashy, marketing driven – and with very little substance.
As the politicos jump on the opportunity to use the internet to reach the widest possible audience, they miss the point and use their sites as direct extensions of their standard media campaigns. The opportunity for public interaction is missed, and in todays social web, that's a big no-no.
But the online political arena is not the sole domain of the political parties and their members. There is no requirement to have (hundreds of) thousands of dollars of marketing capital to run an online campaign. Many minor groups and individuals are using the internet, and particularly blogs, to voice their opinions about issues they feel strongly about. There are large groups, such as GetUp that take on the government directly, and much smaller groups/individuals, such as Alex Hawke, that campaign more about issues that affect them directly.
The Alex Hawke site is a great example of the power of the internet being harnessed by a motivated individual to campaign against a politician they have issues with. The site does not use cheap tricks, skulduggery or misinformation to attack it's subject. Rather it employs the ethical and unwavering use of truth and publicly available information to inform the reader. The use of a blog as the publishing platform allows direct interaction from visitors to the site with it's author, and other visitors, to discuss the subject matter.
Through the honest and open use of the medium, one man can raise the awareness of an issue, create a ripple that grows into a swell of opinion. It is this change that politicians and political parties must face as they battle to win the votes of the electorate.