The Conservative party has been taught a harsh lesson in how not to use social media and what can happen if you do it wrong or forget the fundamentals.
In an attempt to attack Gordon Brown and his links to the Unite union (currently involved with the BA strikes) the Tories launched the Cash-Gordon website with a scoring system to encourage people to spread the word and the Twitter hashtag #CashGordon. The site featured a counter, a leader-board and most importantly a live Twitter feed of the #CashGordon tag.
The live Twitter feed was where the Tories fell afoul of the dark side of social media. Their first mistake was that they didn’t monitor or filter the tweets that appeared on the stream as soon as this became known the feed was filled with tweets that I’m sure the Tories wouldn’t want to appear;
@OllyBeat: All tweets with #cashgordon appear on Tory campaign website. The sh*t door is open and the nutters are pouring in. See you there…
Mistake number 2 came when Twitter users discovered that the feed didn’t strip out HTML and Java script resulting in people being able to write HTML styling into their tweets and the site creating it, such as;
@steviemarshall: <span style=”font-size: 100px; color: red;”>Made a **** of that eh! </span>#cashgordon
This produced some interesting tweets appearing in the feed.
Whoever was in charge of managing the site picked up on what was happening relatively quickly and attempted to place a 301 redirect on the site taking people to the Conservative Party’s website, but in their haste another mistake was made and the URL on the 301 was spelt incorrectly and only sent people to a “Server not Found”.
In the short time that this mistake became public knowledge the tag #CashGordon became the 3rd most trended topic on Twitter for the United Kingdom and has got people talking about The Conservatives, but in a negative manor.
This has been a tough lesson on how Social Media is not just a medium that can spread the word and create positive results with minimal effort. It requires strategy, especially in anticipating and handling the inevitable mudslinging that will accompany activities such as this.