General Election 2015: what did the parties teach us about social media?


The Labour Party “liked” Buzzfeed on Facebook; the Lib Dems “liked” Russell Brand. Those facts alone were enough to suggest the 2015 General Election was going to be like no other before it.

Political polls of Britain were bisected no longer: there was no clear battle of Tories Vs Labour (who together made up 80% of the vote in the 1992 election). What we saw was a diverse mix of popular parties soaking up the votes; from Green Party to the left, to UKIP to the right.

Parties still take to the streets, campaigners still work the news cycle, and politicians carry out whistle-stop tours; but the digital powerhouse of social media is what really changed the face of political campaigns this year.

Remember Obama’s ‘four more years’ tweet? That was the grand finale of his successful, digital re-election campaign, becoming the most retweeted photo of all time (only to be beaten by Ellen DeGeneres star-studded Oscar selfie two years later). It appears the UK political parties amped up their social media game as a result.

Particularly for Labour – with only half the campaign budget of the Conservatives – social media is an quick and powerful way to spread ideas. They’ve got a good set of minds behind their marketing strategy, too; taking on Blue State Digital to run their campaign… the very people who ran Team Obama. So, what social media strategies and techniques can we take away from them?

The power of the visual

At the very core of every political campaign are the ideas they propose. How do the parties get these across? Through words, first and foremost. But one thing you will see an abundance of, as you scour through the parties’ Facebook and Twitter pages, are images. Bold, colourful visuals and infographics that catch your eye, and more importantly, make the messages they contain easier to digest.

The images themselves remain consistent with the parties “brand” identity.  Labour’s primary colours: red, blue, yellow and green create nice, juicy visuals that pop from the page. They’ve kept this infographic simple (probably because their actual proposals from the NHS were a little too long for a Facebook post) with clear calls to action – particularly important for marketing campaigns.

They’re not alone with the less than subtle calls to action  – every party is using them. Visuals can easily go viral if they’re shareable enough, so having a purpose to share is crucial to spread the message.

What can we learn?

Infographics, memes, presentations, videos… the production of this kind of visual media is increasing everyday, and can do wonders for marketers or businesses. Why? 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual; so what’s the point of putting your slaved-over content out there, simply for it to be glanced over? You’d be blind to ignore it – it’s time to get visual.

Let’s face it, we don’t all have the deep pockets of Ed Miliband and David Cameron to dig into for a team of designers, sourcing and creating content every day of the week. Alas, there’s now a graphic design platform that allows you to create professional-looking visuals, zero design knowledge necessary.

The company, called Canva, gives access to over a million photographs, graphics and fonts; as well as a selection of social media templates. Thank you, the Internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Know your audience

One thing political parties know inside and out is their target audience. With this knowledge at hand, they can perfect their content, as well as their brand voice to target them. Look at the Green Party, for example. Their aim is to build an economy that works for the common good, not just the privileged few, and pledge to protect the planet from climate change.

Naturally, the Green Party acquired followers who feel angry, frustrated and ignored by the current and past Governments. They had high hopes this new party could pop the traditional Westminster bubble and bring fresh hope to the table; so posts like this one went down a treat with followers.

Likewise, the UK Independence Party have a firm grasp on their supporters’ interest, becoming a strong challenger in the polls. Their audience are worried about immigration and the economy, and one of the groups most likely to vote UKIP are the working class. So what sort of content does UKIP share on their social media?

The top comment on this post is: “I’d love to have a beer with Mr. Farage. He’s just so classically English; he just looks like what I imagine a Prime Minister should look like.” UKIP have nailed their supporters’ values and created the ideal imagery to grab their attention.

And then we come to the Conservatives, whose biggest party pledge was building a better economy for Britain. Putting more people in work than ever before, investing £100 million into apprenticeships and cutting income tax. A huge amount of their marketing was emotional – targeting working families and those passionate about a long-term economic plan.


What can we learn?

What works on UKIP’s Twitter page certainly wouldn’t get retweeted on The Green Party’s. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to targeting your audience on social media; so before you put any time, effort or money into visual media, make sure you know them inside and out.

With every post you put out, put yourself in the mindframe of the target audience scrolling down their Facebook feed. Who are they? What are they thinking? What makes them tick? Defining your market means you can focus on the very best social media techniques to stop them in their tracks and listen to what you have to say. If the big shots running Britain  are doing it, it’s evidently worth the research.

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