The UK’s first social election

This year’s general election will arguably be the UK’s first proper ‘social election’, with social media channels playing as central a role as the traditional media as a forum for political debate. This follows on from the precedent set in the two most recent US presidential elections, where social channels have now become fully fledged campaigning tools. It wasn’t until the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014 that Britain really caught up – according to Facebook, more than 10 million interactions were made on their platform about the Scottish debate in just one month.

It will be interesting to see how the UK political parties use social media in their campaigns and how voters engage with them online. With less than five months to go until Election Day on 7th May, campaigning has already begun and the social media battle is certainly heating up.

Source: We Are Social

The battle begins…

Recent research by social media agency We Are Social looked at all social media activity of the main parties over the past six months. The research found that the Conservatives appear to be favouring Facebook in their election campaign, whilst the Labour Party is taking to Twitter.

On Facebook, the Conservatives had 320,766 friends at the end of December 2014 – up 29% in six months. In comparison, the Labour Party had just 202,538 Facebook friends – an increase of 12% during the same time period. In addition, when looking at the levels of engagement on Facebook, the Tories edged ahead of their rivals on the other side of the House of Commons, with 3,718 likes, comments and shares compared with Labour’s 3,438.

On Twitter however, Labour had a greater presence, with 165,759 followers compared to Tories’ 129,851. Labour was also found to be more active, posting on average eight tweets per day over the six month period – in comparison the Tories averaged 1.68 tweets a day.

The fight isn’t just against other parties…

As the countdown continues it will be interesting to see how the different parties ramp up their efforts on social media. Election campaigns gauge public opinion on key issues, and these views are a strong factor in determining the outcome. However, elections are also brand contests – political parties and their leaders are some of the most high-profile brands around.

Traditionally, political organisations have been able to keep close control of their brands through party colours, logo, website, flyers, slogans etc. However, with the growth of the online channels, brand reputation is much harder to monitor and influence. Political parties – and any public-facing organisations for that matter – need to be able to use social media to their advantage but also monitor social channels for any mentions and gauge sentiment if they are to thrive in the social age.