November 02, 2008
Newcastle social media site ‘Bang the Table’ bangs political heads
In a small way, Newcastle’s social media scene is a LIVE and KICKING, but this small scene is about to make a big political splash and possibly change the way political marketing is conducted in Newcastle.
A little unknown social media site called ‘Bang the Table’ is on the brink of changing the NSW Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay’s mind on a developers explosive request to remove 2,000 metres of railway line that divides Newcastle’s CBD district.
Initially, NSW Minister for the Hunter attacked the developer The GPT Group, saying she would not give in to “threats” over the rail line.
“In regard to the rail line, the community has spoken on that issue and they want the rail line to stay and until the community tells us otherwise our position remains the same, the rail line will stay in place,” she said.
These statements in the Newcastle Herald reignited a furious war of words between pro-rail supporters against prominent local developers and business groups believing this section of railway is holding back a $650M redevelopment of Newcastle’s CBD.
This, at sometimes heated war of words is being played out in Newcastle’s traditional media, which principally consists of 1233 ABC, NBN and the Newcastle Herald.
I must admit, these media outlet have embraced social media in their own way, but they still have a tendency to be a media gatekeeper, deciding which stories are published, debate or discussed.
Both sides slugged it out for weeks, quoting many previously unheard of reports and statistics, to support their position. And like the NSW Minister for the Hunter, they used the ‘ROYAL’ Newcastle ‘WE’ – insinuating that the local community backed their position.
However, the NSW Minister for the Hunter and the other key protagonist had forgotten one minor thing – no one had bothered to ask the people of Newcastle for their opinion. They were too busy pushing out propaganda to and/or coveting favours with Newcastle traditional media gatekeepers.
That was until the NSW Minister for the Hunter, thinking she had community support, moved the debate online to Bang the Table. A brave move for an Australian politician.
I feel, Australian politics has not embraced the global trend towards a more social media style of connecting with their electorate, a style that is conversational, collaborative and open, lagging their US counterparts by at least a couple of years.
Bang the Table was founded by Matthew Crozier & Dr Crispin Butteriss to capitalise on this trend towards social media, positioning their online site as a social tool for Governments and businesses to engage local communities in conversation, discussion and debate.
Since the NSW Minister for the Hunter initiated this social media experiment on the 16th October 2008, an amazing 37 separate discussion streams have been started, 1,894 comments have been made and 62,766 page views. Not bad for two weeks and very little traditional media exposure.
In fact, the debate was so popular the NSW Minister for the Hunter decided to extend the closing date to the 14th November 2008.
Bang the Table has given the people of Newcastle an opportunity to influence political decisions and their future. Maybe!
Unluckily for the NSW Minister for the Hunter, roughly ¾ of people voted or made comments against her position, on the railway line issue.
Therefore, the biggest question for NSW Minister for the Hunter and the people who contributed to the discussions: What is she going to do now?
On the Bang the Table site the NSW Minister for the Hunter says: ‘The results of this discussion forum will be forwarded to the CBD Taskforce which is examining ways to drive investment in Newcastle and key challenges including transport and connectivity.’
Sending community views behind closed doors, where strange people with hidden agenda’s lie in wait is not in the spirit of Social Media.
She has opened the conversational bottle; she just can’t snap it shut again – the online conversation will carry on with or without her.
Political marketing like other forms of marketing is changing and if people disagree with you, it’s their right to disagree and to put their views forward.
It would be a missed opportunity if a community’s views are ignored, especially after they were promised – an open debate.
Sounds like a wonderful initiative. Look forward to hearing more about it.
Posted by: Jye Smith | November 03, 2008 at 08:48 AM
Great explanation, Gordon. One thing that social media does well, is surface underlying conversations. It is not like this discussion wasn’t already happening in coffee shops and pubs across Newcastle. It’s just much more visible. And this means it is a whole lot less “manageable” … even if it is more honest.
Posted by: Gavin Heaton | November 03, 2008 at 01:09 PM