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The Social Election
Kirsty Usher

Once upon a time when elections were called, we the public would be inundated with posters, flyers, doorstep campaigners and party broadcasts… now not so much.


It’s become clear in the last few years that a well-planned, strategic Facebook campaign is one of the key areas where parties can reach and speak to their voters – the modern-day battleground.

Each party has built differing tactics, however one thing is clear – campaign managers consider Facebook to be a powerful political weapon.

Taking into account the high levels of sustained engagement and the relatively short campaign window, it’s clear why social media has become a key platform for politicians.  

Labour’s influencer–led approach to reach young voters, who are considered the key to them having a successful election, is a new tactic. Not only this, but it’s cheaper, allowing Labour to match the Conservatives' efforts with smaller budgets.

By engaging a group of musicians and personalities, with their own established online following and a heavily engaged younger audience, Labour now have saliency amongst a politically relevant demographic. The young voters who were once disengaged are encouraged to register to vote, they have flooded to register and are therefore fundamental to Corbyn and Labour’s success. If the one thing that comes from this election is that Labour manage to increase their national vote share through an influencer campaign then it will be deemed a success.

The Conservative strategy, meanwhile, has almost been the exact opposite. It has focused less on innovation and more on utilising the might of their spending power to buy up social media ad space to drive a more traditional political advertising tactic of attacking the opposition. (In the last election, they outspent the opposition 5-1 on social media).

That said, in terms of format, they have shown some evolution in approach, delivering these messages in the form of the ‘attack ad’. These formats, which were so successful in the US election, involve splicing together different pieces of TV and interview footage to drive home a believable and authoritative message within hours of appearing on TV.

So, while this mass broadcast approach from the Conservatives may not have generated the same levels of engagement as Labour’s more youth focused approach (in the last week, Labour has attracted a daily average of 80-100k engagements in the last week, versus just 30-40k for the Conservatives) the question is has this approach, supported with clever localised targeting, swayed the minds of the undecided voters in swing seats by closing the loop and punching home the big sound-bite messages they are hearing in every other channel?

It would seem the Conservatives are less focused on changing the game for the future and more on how social media can deliver them the numbers they need to win in the here and now.

While the use of social media in campaigning and gaining voice share will clearly dominate party tactics in the future, no one will really know how effective each of the campaign approaches have been until we wake up tomorrow morning.

The rules are changing, new games are being played and social media is the ring master.



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