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If you live in the UK, then today’s a very special day. After months of assiduous debates, media coverage, and political campaigns, election day is finally upon us. Even if you live outside of Britain, chances are you’ve been drawn into the fray due to the blanket coverage these politicians have been receiving.
Here in England, it’s almost unavoidable, especially on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Social Media is a part of the majorities’ day-to-day activities, so it would make sense that political parties would look to those platforms to engage more users.
Time spent on digital has increased 250% between 2010 and 2014 - Paul Greenwood, We Are Social.
These kind of ‘grassroots’ social campaigns worked particularly well in the US during the 2012 elections, where Obama’s presence was felt strongly online. In fact, Obama’s social strategy was so strong, that in the end his re-election victory message became the most popular tweet of all time!
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
It’s since been knocked off the top spot, but at the time the level of social interaction involved in the presidential campaign was unprecedented. It’s even spawned its own Wikipedia page (the true sign of success). So in true British fashion, we’ve all seen how well another country has done using social media, and thought to ourselves, ”might as well give it a go. It can’t be that hard… can it?”
Now that election day is here, let’s take a look at how each political party stacks up on Social Media. Who’s using what, how are they using it, and how are they perceived? For the purpose of this post, I’m going to be taking a look at five British parties which have received plenty of coverage lately
However, if you’d like to discuss the social media strategies of other parties such as SNP or Plaid Cymru, feel free to leave a comment below or catch me on Twitter.
“Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming part of the natural fabric for the group both hardest to engage in politics and whose political opinions are least set in stone – young people.” Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute. Before we delve into this any further; let us first take a brief overview of the social-political landscape. Those wonderful folks over at Digihub and 72 Point have created the very informative infographic below, that depicts which party would win if followers or likes on Social Media counted as seats. As you can see, this information above shows a wealth of interesting nuggets, including the fact that there is a lot of social love for Boris Johnson. Perhaps most importantly, the infographic suggests that whilst Twitter users general leans to the left, Facebook is a much more conservative platform. So let’s take a look at whether this was reflected in the respective parties’ social activities.
Politics is huge on Facebook - we expect it to be the most discussed topic in the UK this year - Elizabeth Linder, Facebook.The election has given Facebook the chance to become more than just an echo chamber of baby pictures and daily complaints, with many analysts using chatter on the social platform to gauge interest and attitudes towards the election. This even affected our offline environment, as from May 1st onwards, London residents were treated to one of their many landmarks being lit up like a politically-themed Christmas tree; reflecting discussions on Facebook regarding the general election. So, what were the main parties doing to influence these discussions?
The Green Party have kicked their Social Media strategy into overdrive this year, building their follower base on Facebook to well over 200,000 likes, mainly through the use of regular video and visual content within their updates. However, whilst this many Facebook fans may seem impressive, it pales in comparison to their right-wing counterparts, UKIP. The party is incredibly well-liked on Facebook, with over 440,000 fans at the time of writing.
Visual content is once again a staple of their campaign, although there does seem to be an abundance of pictures of Nigel Farage looking incredibly happy – the UKIP poster boy is everywhere on their social feeds (seriously though, what is he so chuffed about?). They also seem to have a strong grasp of social marketing tactics, using everything from the standard ‘like and share if you agree with us’ tactic to the slightly more advanced social tools such as Thunderclap – a crowd-sourced mass sharing platform that helps to spread messages. Interestingly, the two trending Thunderclap campaigns at the time of writing are on completely different sides of the fence, and whilst UKIP have more supporters, look at the social reach of the second post.
Working with Matthew McGregor, part of the Blue State Digital team that advised Obama’s 2012 campaign, Labour have also taken the visual approach on Facebook, creating smartly designed posters to encouraging sharing and to countdown to election day. They’ve also created a strange, anti-conservative Facebook Movie for David Cameron, which is… novel, to say the least. https://youtu.be/3clUh-S2M9Y Despite this, and the numerous celebrity endorsements, they’re still left trailing behind the conservatives in terms of likes, comparing Labour’s to 289,000+ fans to Conservatives’ 450,000+. That being said, it was revealed earlier this year that the conservatives had recently spent over £120,000 a month on Facebook, so take that as you will [Source: BBC].
The Conservative page consisted mainly of motivational speeches from David Cameron and shared links from right-wing newspapers. I did, however, come across this interesting piece of interactive content, in which you can “use your Facebook account” to find out how their manifesto will help you. This seems like a pretty cut and dry data collection form dressed up in snazzy clothing, and looking a little closely, it most definitely is.
Although they had one of the friendliest political Facebook pages, with positive, time-relevant posts and competitions to win dinner with Hugh Grant (best prize ever?), the Liberal Democrats come in last place in terms of Facebook likes, with just over a lowly 111,000.
Twitter has been a hub of activity for this years’ election campaigns. The debates have all been live-tweeted, hashtags have got their very own emojis, and parody accounts have been created, so let’s see what each party has done to capitalise on this.
They seemed to have a lot of fun with Twitter in the last few months. Whilst the microblogging platform erupted right on cue with joyous celebration on everyone’s favourite national day, Ed Balls day, who can forget this year’s newest amusing hashtag, #EdStone.
All jokes aside, Labour are actually the best performing party on Twitter by a long-shot, with over 211,000 followers. The content of their feed is fairly similar to their Facebook content, once again heavy with celebrity endorsements. They tweeted the same promotional video of Steve Coogan at least 6 times within 12 hours, which may be slightly overkill, but definitely gets the message across.
They come in second in terms of Twitter followers, with 155,000 fans. The content of their tweets is almost identical to their Facebook page, with added Retweets from their press office.
Speaking of Retweets, UKIP seem to be aggressively showing how much everybody likes them be retweeting any positive praise they receive. Despite this, they’re still falling behind Green party in terms of followers, who have over 30,000 more than UKIP’s 102k.
Last but not least, we have the Liberal Democrats, trailing behind with 94.4 thousand followers and a profile that alerts people what would happen if they got your vote. They also have one or two ‘amusing’ videos. “I Clegg Your Pardon”, is a witty-titled video response Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems (terrible boy band name), released in response to the tweets Clegg was receiving.
Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only social channels on which we’ve seen the parties flex their muscles.
There are countless videos and paid video ads on YouTube for example, all released to varying degrees of success. Whilst each party has their own generic message videos, and spotlights on features, we were lucky enough to receive a few gems, in the boyband parody videos like this from from Green Party:
Labour even managed to get Russell Brand to interview Ed Miliband.
“All young voters contacted by pollsters BritainThinks said they liked Brand and had a lot more respect for him than individual politicians” (Source: The Guardian)
As you can see below, that interview went just about as well as you would expect:
The BBC also has a great write up on how each party used the ‘alternative’ social networks such as Instagram and Vine to win votes.
It points out some troubling stats, like the fact that Cameron has a strong following of over 19,000 users on Vine, and yet hasn’t posted a single video; and has shone light onto the fact that despite having well over 260,000 followers on Google+, Nick Clegg hasn’t used the platform since the 29th August 2014.
When it comes to Labour and Vine, well, what more needs to be said?
That’s just a brief round-up of all the political social activity that’s been taking place over the last few months, but you can read much more about how Social Media has influenced this year’s UK elections at the following links:
Feel free to leave a comment below or Tweet me @Hr_Gardiner and discuss any particularly stand-out political activities you’ve witnessed online, but more importantly, please do not forget to vote today – every decision counts.