The truth is that national elections often touch on very sensitive subject matter that riles up a whole host of emotions within the electorate. Australian politics seems to be no different in how personally intimate choices can spill into the political spotlight.
Whether it is a candidate’s stance on marriage equality or their personal views on immigration, political parties are internally wired to always be on the look out for opportunities to paint the opposition as “out of touch” with the mainstream.
This week probably marks the moment of this election cycle that marriage equality and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocates can point to as a watershed moment. Not only did Tony Abbott slip up on camera with his ‘fashion of the moment’ remark on gay marriage — (a clip that I’ve now seen on TV what seems like an infinite number of times, but also have read about online across most widely read Australian news outlets) — but his political rivals pounced on it quickly.
In fact, Labor has used social channels brilliantly to really amplify its position on marriage equality and to differentiate it on this topic.
First, a brand new microsite is up that very clearly links Kevin Rudd and Labor as the more progressive party on the subject. Its Time For Marriage Equality seems to have launched this week and is already making ripples across the social sphere. It is a very simple site that does three very important things:
1) It clearly and prominently displays video content of Kevin Rudd pledging his stance and how he’s “proud to stand with all Australians who believe it's time for marriage equality.” At the time of this writing, the video has been viewed over 9000 times.
2) It asks like-minded Australian’s to pledge their support by providing their contact information. (Over 8500 have done so already.)
3) It solicits people to share, in their very own words, why this is an issue that is important to them. Very cleverly, this solicitation isn’t something that just disappears into the virtual ether, but rather is automatically re-tweeted in what appears to be a brand new twitter account as well.
To ensure those personal stories are aggregated and grouped together, most of those retweets are leveraging a combination of the #AusPol, #AusVotes, and #ItsTime hashtags. And to provide a little context regarding how frequently those hashtags are being used, I leveraged a third party listening platform to quickly take a snapshot of the frequency of those specific hashtags appearing on Twitter from Australian accounts in the past week.
It was a pretty telling exercise. All three have had a pretty significant explosion in their use, and when it comes to gaining share of voice and building sentiment online, a big part of the challenge is having people see and engage with your content. (For those keeping track, #AusVotes went from nearly 50k uses to just over 85k, #AusPol went from 127,000 mentions to just over 138,000, and #ItsTime went from approximately 17 to over 2400.)
Sure, you can always argue that those numbers mean nothing. But, in doing so would choose to ignore the fact that that more and more people are actively trying to engage via social channels and that even the most sensitive and personal subject matter, like marriage equality, isn’t off limits in the Australian political reality.