Have you woken up this morning elated? Shocked? Disappointed? Ready to become independent of the E.U? No matter our sentiments, the people have spoken and by a slim margin, the United Kingdom will become the first country to leave the European Union. For the past few months #Brexit and the E.U. Referendum has been one of the most covered and anticipated news story. Traditional media outlets and social media marketing have been alight presenting figures, arguments and opinions on whether to stay or leave.
As a millennial born before the boom of the internet (as we understand it today), it has been interesting to witness the dramatic and fast-paced dependence on social media. From humble beginnings, as a place to post awkward photos of yourself and friends to updating one’s status to show your ‘officially’ in a relationship, social media has become a crux of convenience, especially as a news outlet.
For younger millennials radio, newspapers and news channel have slowly given way to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the rest for discovering what’s happening in the world. Yet, how has the EU Referendum played out on social media?
Twitter and the EU Referendum
Twitter has become the platform for trending, topical news. When checking one’s Twitter account, simply type a hashtag into the search box to read the global conversations being held around a single topic. With over 65% of users under the age of 34 using Twitter, the platform does well to capture ‘youth.’
A majority of the trending hashtags are centred on the EU Referendum. Top hashtags understandably include #Brexit, #EURefResults and, of course, #DavidCameron, who as of this morning announced his resignation, following 3 more months of being Prime Minister to “stabilise” the country before making his final curtain call. Will he forever be remembered as the PM who took the UK out of the E.U.?
Unusually, an analysis of Twitter users’ sentiments on the EU Referendum, conducted by Euractive suggested that, “as of 21 June, 62% of tweets [mentioning Brexit in the last fortnight], support the UK staying in the EU.” However, when it comes to touchy subjects like religion and politics, can ‘sentiment’ really to be trusted with how voters will actually decide on the day?
Facebook and the EU Referendum
With over 31 million users on Facebook, the platform has begun to lose touch with its younger demographic, who are migrating to more consistent usage of channels such as Snapchat. However, Facebook has consistently re-invented itself, adding to its digital repertoire by buying competitors and introducing new features.
Yet, it is unmistakable to note that, unlike Twitter, Facebook is not as swift of a news outlet. Although, as a user-generated content platform, Facebook has become inundated with users posting their op-eds on the E.U. Referendum, you many not immediately know the stance of your favourite traditional news outlet, due to constant Facebook algorithm changes that amend what appears first in your News Feed. However, when checking your Facebook account, you’ll certainly know how your friends and the people you added as a friend but haven’t spoken to in years, feel regarding #Brexit. Due to the near unanimous left-wing liberalness of younger people using Facebook, almost every Facebook post mentioned in a news story is an announcement of a Remainers disappointment.
Both Team Remain and Team Leave have multiple Facebook pages dedicated to presenting their cases. With hundreds of thousands of followers for each respective Leave or Remain camp, both sides have campaigned hard; wheeling out respective politicians (from the UK and abroad), economists, celebrities and ‘everyday’ people to using scare and smear tactics.
However, besides using social media as an extension of what would typically occur in politicised campaign (as mentioned above), politicians have smartly utilised Facebook’s new ‘Facebook Live’ function. Go-to website for entertainment Buzzfeed hosted an interview with Prime Minister David Cameron, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which was streamed on Buzzfeed’s Facebook page via Facebook Live.
Watch David Cameron’s remain video here: https://www.facebook.com/BuzzFeedUK/videos/1439652946062857/
The EU Referendum and Viral Posts
With the existence of social media came the creation of viral posts and throughout the lead up to the E.U. Referendum, there wasn’t a dull moment.
On Facebook, a small business owner, Nick Cater-Lando, discussed the invalidity of the Leave campaign’s immigration arguments. His post, urging people to vote for Britain to stay in the EU, was shared 21k times in 48 hours, and has now is shared almost 62k times. Why? It was an ordinary person’s account, which was well-researched, honest and straightforward.
Equally making the internet rounds was a ‘Vote’ meme that was designed in the style of BBC Breaking News. Stating that the E.U. Referendum would be held over 2 days, the meme encouraged Leave voters to vote today rather than yesterday, due to high voter turnout. Were this meme to have been believed, the outcome of today’s E.U. Referendum results would have been dramatically different.
On the dating app Tinder, with 85% of users falling between the ages of 18 to 34, the swiping app added a feature titled ‘Swipe the Vote,’ which over recent weeks received increasing attention. With the feature, the app presented a series of statements prompting users to question how much they know about the E.U.
Opposing Decline of Traditional Outlets
Needing to stay relevant with those who are transitioning to reading news on social media, traditional outlets have created their own defined online presence. Setting up their own social media accounts and creating interesting campaigns conceived specifically for online purposes have allowed traditional outlets to make a relatively easy transition.
The Telegraph and The Huffington Post UK live streamed an E.U. Referendum debate through YouTube. The publications collaborated on hosting duties and used YouTube Livestream as a new tool to engage younger audiences and encourage them to stay abreast of the ever-changing figures related to #Brexit. The debate included 2 panel members for Remain and 2 panel members for Leave. The livestream function also allowed users to share real-time comments and ask questions.
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G5L41hdybI
The E.U. Referendum and Social Media
With the dust not yet settled on the E.U. Referendum results and voters still reeling – either in happiness or shock – the E.U. Referendum has played a significant part in social media conversations over the past few months. With Remainers and Leavers both making their cases on multiple platforms, social media has truly stepped up as a legitimate forum for news.
However, like traditional media outlets, following updates on the E.U. Referendum through social media will tend to re-affirm one’s own established beliefs. We, as consumers of news, want to read articles, opinion pieces, follow arguments and read statistical information that is already in line with opinions we have formed.
Time will only tell how this historic vote will affect U.K citizens, the E.U. and the rest of the world. And unlike the U.K’s apparent permanence in the E.U, social media will continue to evolve and exist to follow what happens next.
We're interested to hear your thoughts on today's results. Share your opinions on #Brexit. And if you're interested in social media marketing, come and say [email protected].