British political party to it’s members: You are too nuts to go on Facebook or Twitter, so don’t

I’ve previously written about the social media struggles of England’s far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).  The party, and it’s members, have committed repeated social media gaffes that have, in many cases, enhanced their image as a racist party.  As such, their Chairman has a novel approach for avoiding Facebook & Twitter mistakes: don’t use Facebook or social media.

Huh?

From UKIP’s Chairman Steve Crowther:

“My advice: just don’t. Remember life before you could delight the whole world with your every passing thought? It wasn’t so bad, was it? I have no Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram thingy. It’s lovely.”

This statement came out in the party’s new member magazine.  Additionally, UKIP members are now banned from using the UKIP logo in online communications, unless they have “express permission to do so.”

Good luck with that.

Such an absurdly stupid statement represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media works:

  • People are discussing UKIP online, regardless of whether or not UKIP has a social media presence.  By attempting to avoid the medium completely, UKIP will lose the ability to participate in and influence the conversation.
  • We passed the point where political parties can avoid social media about seven or eight years ago.  This is just insane.  Social media is a vital part of modern communications for any major operation, including a political party.  I wonder if UKIP would have avoided using the new-fangled telephone in the 1930s because they didn’t want people to realize how ugly their voices sounded.
  • This whole concept that you can stop people from using the party’s logo is also absurd. It took me less than sixty seconds to find UKIP’s logo and add it to this blog entry.  In the digital age, political parties don’t get to tell people when they can and cannot use their logo.  This sends a chilling message to supporters: we don’t trust you.  UKIP’s problem runs deeper than that.

Most importantly: communication finds a way. Gaffes find a way.  I will repeat my central thesis behind every social media fail that I have covered: social media does not make people dumber.  It just gives already dumb people another opportunity, and a broader audience, in which they can be dumb.  While social media can certainly accelerate a gaffe, avoiding social media because people use it to say stupid things is like taking a pill to address a bad cough when you have an inflection: it doesn’t address the real problem.  The real problem is that UKIP members say stupid things, not that they use social media to do so.  The party and it’s members need communications training in general, not to stop using social media.

Of course, the party has been accused being more than gaffe prone, but having racist policies. If that’s the case, then UKIP isn’t making a gaffe at all: they are just displaying who they are. And in that case, not using Facebook or Twitter won’t save them one bit.

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