NEWS FROM THE LAB - Friday, April 15, 2011

Heavy Use of Social Media in Finnish Elections Posted by Sean @ 14:55 GMT

vaalit.fiFinland's parliamentary elections take place this weekend, on Sunday, April 17th. According to the Ministry of Justice's election statistics, 31.2% of Finland's eligible voters (4,159,857 people) have already cast their votes in early balloting. 2007's elections received a 67.9% overall turnout.

Finnish political campaigns last two weeks, an incredibly short period of time when compared to a country such as the United States (which is already preparing for November 2012 elections).

In a year of reduced campaign budgets, many candidates are utilizing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in their outreach efforts.

Some candidates, such as Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Stubb, have obviously been using Twitter for some time (one would almost expect it from a self-declared foreign affairs geek), while others, such as Prime Minister, Mari Kiviniemi, actually use social media less frequently.

Even Finland's Ministry of Justice has its own Facebook page for the elections.

That Finnish candidates and government use social media is not really surprising. According to a March 2010 US State Department Social Media report: Finland has a high level of Internet penetration and usage in comparison to other European nations. Internet usage is such a daily part of life for most Finns, that there is now a law requiring universal Internet access. It's considered a fundamentally important utility.

Analysts will have to wait until post-election to begin determining just how much of an effect social media played in the results. But one thing seems certain, in a country where anybody can download a Master list of all 2,315 candidates in Excel format and their demography statistics in PDF format, 2015's parliamentary elections could require a master list of "official" social media accounts.