Social Media Marketing and Politics

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The UK general election result was a surprise to a huge number of people and many groups and organisations are looking in depth at what caused the opposite to what we and Theresa expected – a Tory landslide. A major factor emerging is the savvy use of Social Media Marking by the Labour party who appealed to the younger voter with a positive message.

Some of the headlines

“Labour outflanked the Conservatives in the battle for votes on social media for the first time in a major election, according to digital strategists close to both camps.”

“Tories ‘spent more than £1m’ on negative Facebook adverts attacking Jeremy Corbyn”

“U.K. Labour's Savvy Use of Social Media Helped Win Young Voters”

A former press adviser to David Cameron, Giles Kenningham, applauded Labour’s “very polished social media presence”, the Conservatives’ digital campaign was viewed by one insider as unprepared and unresponsive – which means they didn’t pay enough attention to it.

Social Media

Targeted ads came flying in – I saw them and they couldn’t be avoided. Labour began campaigning early, investing in a huge social media effort to encourage voters, and in the main young people, to register to vote. This paid off with a record 622,000 people joining the electoral roll in the final 24 hours of the registration period alone – you can only suppose that most of them were younger voters who had been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s positive outlook – and maybe the glaring bribe of no Uni fees…

Targeted Social Media ads on Twitter on Facebook were implemented by both parties. The Who Targets Me? project, which was set up to specifically monitor targeted advertising for the election, suggested Labour’s messages were targeted more broadly than the Tories’. In the last two days of campaigning, the project reported Labour adverts being displayed to voters in 464 constituencies, which compared to Conservative adverts in just 205. Targeting works – Sam Jeffers of Who Targets Me said “In the final stages we saw lots of Labour ads in Hastings and Rye [where the home secretary, Amber Rudd, almost lost her seat], but no Tory ads.” And Labour also cast its net wider with its voter suppression ad about “dementia tax”, which Who Targets Me picked up in more than 200 constituencies. The Tories’ anti-Corbyn ad, focusing on his comments about shoot to kill, were seen in only about 100 seats.

Apparently (I couldn’t find the article) according to analysis by Buzzfeed News, stories about Mr Corbyn’s celebrity endorsements were the most shared election-related articles on Facebook. In total, such articles were shared around 971,700 times, significantly more than stories relating to Labour’s rise in the opinion polls, which received around 557,600 shares. The Labour party know about influencer marketing too.

On polling day Labour spent a sizeable amount promoting its hashtag #forthemany on Twitter. Twitter is considered Labour’s online stronghold and while buying the rights to promote a single hashtag can cost as much as £50,000, the expense may have been worth it to rally the younger vote, which appears to have played a significant role in Labour’s performance.

Buzzfeed did say “Young voter registration, the NHS, and Jeremy Corbyn's security record were topics all shared more than stories around Brexit” and on this link shows that there were 971k endorsements for Jeremy Corbyn followed by shares on Labour’s rise in the polls (557k).

Content was significant too. Momentum is a grassroots campaigning network of over 20,000 members and 150 local groups, which evolved out of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 election campaign. The Tories focused on producing videos for people to watch, whereas Momentum and others prioritised content that was likely to be shared between friends – and it clearly was. Evidence suggests voters find content more convincing if it has been sent to them by someone they know rather than a political party – obvious really. Sharing between users also meant Momentum only needed to spend £2,000 advertising its content on Facebook. In contrast, the Conservatives spent more than £1m on Facebook posts, which mostly included negative messages attacking Jeremy Corbyn for comments he had made in the past.

The majority of the articles widely shared on social media were predominately pro-Labour. One Facebook post backing Corbyn, attacking "bankers, with their multi million pound bonuses," was shared 177,400 times, making it the most shared post about the U.K. election during the campaign, according to social media analyser Buzzsumo.

Not everyone agrees that social media has an impact on voting. A political science professor at the University of Manchester, who has studied social media’s impact on election turnout, said that the link between viewing or sharing content that favours a certain campaign and then actually voting for that party is tenuous at best. "Most evidence is that reading social media itself does not cause people to vote," she said. Perhaps she’s wrong – all that I’ve read points the opposite way.

It was noted that in 2015, the Labour Party had a much bigger presence on Twitter and was tweeted about far more than the Conservatives, yet lost badly. And noted this year, despite a ‘seemingly’ better run digital media campaign and beating expectations, they still lost.

The message is that Social Media Marketing works... doesn’t it?

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