Digital campaigning is opening up the mayoral race
During the opening statements at the AgeUK mayoral hustings last week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced that, if re-elected, he will extend the Freedom Pass to all Londoners aged 60 years or older, reversing a decision put in place by the Labour Party.
Boris made the Freedom Pass commitment at about 2pm. Within minutes @BackBoris2012 had tweeted the promise, posted a news story on our site, shared it on Facebook and sent an email to our supporters, meaning hundreds of thousands of people knew about it before the hustings had even finished.
Until this year, mayoral hustings have tended to be fairly closed events attended by interest group members and a few journalists who cover London politics. In other words, the general public didn't really know much, if anything, about them and what was said.
But digital campaigning has changed that.
Campaign teams have always attended these events, briefing out lines and announcements after they finish. With smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, campaign websites and on-the-fly email blast systems, announcements can now be shared as they happen and immediately hit the inboxes of supporters.
And this type of communication is only going to become more commonplace as campaign staff increasingly join the social media fray. BackBoris2012 has campaign director Lynton Crosby tweeting from @lyntonkcrosby and media director Sam Lyon on @BackBorisPress, in addition to our main feed. Boris Johnson's Facebook page has over 123,000 likes and our supporter database is growing rapidly each day.
Of course there are inherent risks with the immediacy of digital campaigning, but it's the immediacy that brings the most benefit. No candidate for Mayor of London can be in every borough at once - though Boris has made five times as many borough visits per month and has held twice as many meetings per month as his predecessor - but tools like Twitter and Facebook make it easier to connect with Londoners across the capital.
Bethany Wheatley is digital campaign coordinator for the BackBoris2012 campaign. This is part of a weekly blog series by the BackBoris2012 campaign. Find the whole series here