After the shock results of Brexit and Trump’s election as US president, I wrote a blog about how I believed social media was now the key influencer in modern day voting.
During the UK election campaign, I kept thinking back to this blog and about how we should all now expect the unexpected but no –one else seemed to be thinking the same thing.
All the media were focusing on a landslide for the Tories, while the right wing media boasted front pages, which were so denigrating to the opposition leader, you’d have expected him to struggle getting a job as a barista in Starbucks, let alone as a potential Prime Minister.
But they were all wrong.
In the “olden” days, politicians needed to court the press in order to stand a chance of election to high office. The famous headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” could not be further from the truth now.
So, I’ve been doing a bit of research to try to find out exactly, how, and why, Labour managed such an unexpected surge in popularity.
I searched for the articles, which were most shared on social media, about the phrases ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘Theresa May’ between April 18 and June 8 2017.
During the election, a pro-Jeremy Corbyn article, from The London Economic, entitled “This Facebook comment about Jeremy Corbyn is going viral” was shared over 142,000 times across various social media channels. According to Buzzsumo, this was one of the most popular articles about Jeremy Corbyn.
During the same period, the most shared article about Theresa May was from the Mirror, entitled “Jeremy Corbyn vows to oust Theresa May ‘within a matter of days’”, which was shared over 165,000 times on social media.
The most pro-Theresa May article shared during this period, was a link to the Conservative’s own website on May 9th, asking people to sign a pledge to back Theresa May, which was shared 91.4k times.
In general, the top ten most shared articles about Jeremy Corbyn are either “pro-Labour” or neutral in tone. The top ten articles about Theresa May are largely negative (and are highly unlikely to have been shared by any, social media-savvy Conservative supporters).
The point to remember here is that these are articles which people actually bothered to share with their friends on social media. Newspapers will talk about readership figures, which is the number of people who may have read an article. Note the word may (no pun intended!) because there is no guarantee that just because somebody bought a newspaper they have read every article cover to cover.
There is so much more value in articles that are shared because it means a reader has read the article and, in most cases, agreed with its sentiment and wanted to share it with their friends (or been so incensed by it’s content they have wanted to share it to enrage their likeminded friends).
This, I accept, is hardly an in depth, academic analysis of the two social media campaigns but even on the surface, it’s pretty clear to see that the Tories lost the social media battle.
There was a very telling line in an article from The Times from the former Tory communications advisor, Kate Perrior, in which she recounts a meeting where they discussed sending Conservative star attraction, Boris Johnson, for an appearance on the day of a by-election in Copeland.
To which Theresa May replied “I’d like to know what the point of all this is. If Boris goes up there today, he will be in tomorrow’s papers and that will be too late. Anyone who knows anything about campaigning knows that.”
That, one line, says it all…
As we all know, a visit by Boris would have been all over social media instantaneously and could have influenced the “undecided” voters.
The question is whether the Tories ever intended to win the social media battle in the first place.
My instinct is that it must have been their strategy to focus on traditional media and see social media as an add on.
It seems completely ludicrous to any of us involved in this sector, that this would be the case, but I see this attitude every day from some really big businesses and agencies, who still see social as something to dabble with rather than take seriously.
So, as a marketeer, you might be asking yourself why you should care about the results of the election?
Because if you, or your boss, is of the “he will be in tomorrow’s papers and that will be too late” opinion, you need to wake up and smell the proverbial “covfefe”. Politicians and businesses need to realise that the time for dabbling is gone and the time for taking social serious is upon us.
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