5 Social Media Lessons from the UK General Election 2015
In 2015, social media has arguably become the most important arena in the #TheBattleForNo10.
According to research from Ipsos, a third of all young people claim that social media will influence how they vote in the 2015 election. Facebook has already jumped on this development - with its ‘I’m a Voter’ button already attracting over 1,000,000 in three days.
With this in mind, there is every reason to believe that social media will help transform and shape how the UK general election will unfold. But before we know the results, here are a few lessons we’ve already taken on board so far.
1. Audiences love to share quality videos
Evidence: The Green Party announces ‘Change The Tune’ campaign
If you or your business is clever enough to create a viral video, then you could definitely learn a thing or two from The Green Party.
With a user base predominantly made up of males aged 25-39, Youtube was the ideal platform for the Green Party to launch its party political broadcast and increase its audience reach.
But why did the Green Party do it?
Boasting that it’s a party distinctly different to the standard ‘boybands’ of Westminster, Natalie Bennett and her party wanted to make a statement.
So they busted out the smoke machine, indulged in some lip-syncing, and achieved the kind of slow motion shots that would make Martin Scorsese jealous.
The Change The Tune campaign achieved exactly what the Green Party needed - increased audience reach and improved brand awareness. And having amassed 830,000 views in only a few short days, this was arguably the best viral video of the 2015 UK election.
However, all of this success does beg the following question: why haven’t the Greens tried to replicate this social hit since?
2. Twitter is the best social media platform for young audiences
Evidence: Miliband becomes a teen heartthrob
How: Viral memes
A man who is commonly compared to the fabulous creatures of Wallace and Gromit, Ed Miliband wasn’t the obvious contender as the election’s hottest heartthrob.
But throw in a dash of female fandom, a passion for political change, and some clever tweeting and the arena was set for #milifandom.
The Twitter campaign achieved remarkable success, amassing over 27,000 followers and an abundance of press coverage.
In response to Abby’s enthusiasm, a number of other memes were spawned that celebrated the Labour leader - including Cool Ed Miliband (have a look if you haven’t already).
Although there’s certainly a humorous side to Abby’s actions, her sincere attempt to strike a balance in the anti-Labour rhetoric has struck a chord with the party itself.
In this respect, Twitter has been invaluable for helping the Labour party to generate positive press and communicate directly with younger audiences.
Nevertheless, some clever marketers could have anticipated Labour’s Twitter success before it ever happened. As it currently stands, Twitter is a social media website that comprises of young, professional women - a demographic that the Conservatives have previously struggled to attract.
The numbers alone speak for themselves. In the last two weeks of the general election, the Labour leader has received over 2,000 followers a day on Twitter:
And despite the fact that David Cameron (@David_Cameron) has more followers, Ed Miliband’s social media presence is actually growing at a faster rate. This is due, in part, to the fact that Labour’s tweets seem to engage better with audiences - having received more retweets on average than the other parties.
So, if the success of Labour’s social success has taught us anything, it’s that Twitter is a fantastic platform for communicating with young people and turning a bad PR day into something positive.
And that’s certainly something that all businesses could learn from.
3. Hashtags are essential for raising brand awareness
Sticking with the theme of Twitter, the Scottish National Party have also succeeded in achieving impressive feats with this social media platform.
Nicola Sturgeon herself has already received high praise for her Twitter usage, but it’s been the party’s clever use of hashtags that have really packed a punch.
During the Jeremy Paxman interview with David Cameron, the SNP Twitter account responded to the same questions using the hashtag #TheWiderDebate.
This was an excellent tactic for the SNP to make their voice heard during the televised interview, but it also succeeded in increasing the party’s audience reach and popularity too. The SNP actually gained 300 seats following the debate and over 400,000 views on their interview-themed videos.
As a result of this commitment to using hashtags, data scientist Gary Short has collated all of the SNP tweets together and demonstrated that SNP supporters are the best at sticking to same hashtag formula and achieving brand consistency.
All you need to do is type #TheWiderDebate into Twitter to see how many times the SNP succeeded in establishing a dialogue with voters. Additionally, this helped to keep the Scottish party at the forefront of public discussion, rather than as an afterthought while David Cameron and Ed Miliband were on national TV.
In this sense, Twitter is a fantastic platform for an any organisation that wants to achieve a unified brand message and improve audience reach.
4. Consistent, high-quality Facebook engagement can create an overnight success (almost)
UKIP might be known for actively discouraging their party members from using social media, but their social media presence is nothing to scoff at.
In fact, UKIP excel at using Facebook - preferring to encourage audience engagement rather than using the social networking site for policy advertising.
If you have a spare few moments, look through the UKIP Facebook and you’ll see most of their interaction centres on asking audiences to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ their content.
This is an excellent social media tactic for a party that seeks to gain better awareness and a more friendly public persona, something which UK have arguably failed to achieve in the past.
But why do UKIP do so well on Facebook specifically?
In many ways, Twitter is often viewed as a public platform and not always a suitable arena for sharing political opinions. Facebook, on the other hand, has much greater user privacy control - so perhaps acts as a more appropriate platform for sharing personal views.
Regardless of the outcome of this general election, one thing is for certain. UKIP would arguably never have achieved the same level of increased awareness without social media, even if it facilitated a few PR blunders along the way.
5. You can’t always trust social media…
Well, if you woke up this morning with a look of bafflement on your face then you weren’t the only one.
With the Conservative Party widely tipped to form a majority at Westminster, it seems evident that social media has duped us once again. Despite the fact that Ed Miliband trends more than his Conservative counterpart, this popularity doesn’t seem to have impacted the electorate.
Furthermore, even though Labour has succeeded in acquiring more Twitter followers per day than any other party, Ed Miliband’s enthusiasm hasn’t necessarily translated into actual votes.
So what happened?
On the one hand, social media is an excellent method for acquiring a whole host of KPIs - like audience engagement, follower count, and ‘Likes’. But it doesn’t really tell you the whole picture of how a business is performing online.
Memes and trends come and go.
But if you really want to pack a punch on social media, you have to achieve complete consistency throughout the campaign. And more often than not, that comes from relying on more than what your fans say online.
Social media lessons from the UK General Election
Overall, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have been invaluable for helping political parties to achieve the following goals:
Increase audience reach
Improve brand awareness
Encourage audience engagement
Inspire new supporters
You don’t need to look further than the success of SNP and Conservatives to know that social media can dramatically transform a brand campaign.
However, the torrid tale of Labour could also serve as a warning for relying too heavily on social media when it comes to assessing overall success.
Like any great campaign, social media is an invaluable asset for meeting many business objectives - but it’s just one facet. The reality is that you need an army of clever marketers behind you too, if you really want to achieve stardom.
If you would like to learn more about social media and how to meet your business objectives, check out our snazzy eBook.
Or join the discussion and give us a tweet on @Pixel8ltd.