It is hard to believe that the campaign time has dwindled so quickly and today marks the UK’s General Election 2015. Many of us have already voted and the question we are all wondering is, who will be our next Prime Minister?
In 2008, Barack Obama became known as the first social media politician. By successfully using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, Mr Obama was not only able to communicate with a new generation of voters, but consistently remind voters who had not grown up with a digital prescence of his campaign promises, as well as his infectious “breath of fresh air” personality.
Is there a UK candidate that can compare with Mr Obama’s strategic social media campaigns? Join us as we take a look at the UK’s political scene and find out…
The First Social Media Politician
The prevalence of social media has disrupted the traditional forms of political campaigning. It is the ideal medium to create a political swell of fans, who on election day, will cast their vote for the candidate they have followed so closely.
Everyone and anyone can participate, engage, debate and vent on social media, which makes these platforms beneficial to candidates if they can use them to their gain and not pull an Anthony Weiner.
In 2008 political pundits were focused on Barack Obama’s race to the White House. And right or wrong, his savvy use of digital marketing strategies was the focus of much of Mr Obama’s news coverage in the lead up to his historic election. However, his techno-demographic appeal was severly overlooked.
First time voters and young Americans who were, and are, digitally acute appreciated a candidate who communicated directly with them through social media platforms.
This was the first time the technology was readily available for candidates to correspond so precisely with voters and Mr Obama took full advantage. Thus, the 2008 elections have since been dubbed “The Facebook Election.” It’s no wonder one of Obama’s strategists was Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s co-founders.
Obama is the social media politician. His personality, as mentioned, lends itself fully to digital communication. On his Facebook account, he lists his interests, his favourite musicians and his favourite films. Anyone feel like watching the Godfather? Part I and II of course…
The Obama campaign reached a staggering 5 million supporters on 15 different social channels. By November 2008, Obama had approximately:
- 3.2 million Facebook fans
- 118,000 Twitter followers (at the time making him one of the most popular accounts on Twitter)
- 833,161 MySpace friends
- 114,559 YouTube subscirbers
He was leaps and bounds in front of his presidential rival, John McCain. It’s also interesting to see that Hillary Clinton announced her running for Democrat nomination on YouTube and not via a traditional press event. This definitely a trend.
The UK’s Obama
Looking at the UK’s potential Prime Ministers, including David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, based purely on their social media standings, who can compare to Mr Obama and use social media to take win a majority?
David Cameron and Ed Miliband
In comparison to Obama’s campaign and subsequent US presidential campaigns in the digital age, Cameron, Miliband and their respective political parties use similar social media tactics as each other.
Using their platforms, they give:
- An update of their campaign day
- What they have achieved
- What they hope to achieve
- Highlighting disasters that will incur if another political party comes to power
Neither Cameron nor Miliband have particularly imaginative social media strategies. Certainly, neither give much insight into their peronalities, or at least their carefully structured personas.
David Cameron’s social media strategy
David Cameron’s confidence and leadership qualities are his party’s trump card. Consistently Cameron polls significantly higher than any other party leader when judging them on whether they would make a good Prime Minister. Naturally, the Conservative’s social media strategy reflects this.
Currently, Mr. Cameron has:
- 552,203 Facebook likes
- 1,002,068 Twitter followers
- 57,211 Google Plus Followers on the Conservative G+ page and 1,628,377 views
- While not having a personal YouTube account, Cameron’s Conservative Party YouTube channel has 14,293 subscribers
Throughout his campaign, Cameron has shared the same content across all his social channels. For example, on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Cameron has used the same image of he and his wife voting this morning. Additionally, the copy on both accounts is exactly the same. If you follow him on Facebook and Twitter, you may get a bit bored.
Ed Miliband’s social media strategy
In contrast, Ed Miliband is widely known for his bumbling and awkwardness – tripping up during live debates and constantly being ribbed for not being his brother.
In a recent sparring session, Mayor of London Boris Johnson inferred that Ed Miliband stabbed his brother in the back to win the Labour leadership. He stated, “I’m not saying your brother had to present himself at A&E with a dagger in his back. But he [pointing at Miliband] would do more damage to this country than his brother.”
Miliband currently has:
- 117,209 Facebook likes
- 477,813 Twitter followers
- The Labour Party Google Plus page hasn’t been updated since September 2014. Yet the platform has 24,660 followers and 138,456 views.
- Again, Ed Miliband doesn’t have a personal YouTube account but the Labour Party has 11,601 subscribers
Miliband, like Cameron, isn’t particularly creative with the use of his Facebook or Twitter accounts. Word for word and image for image, Miliband’s Twitter and Facebook platforms display the exact same thing.
Despite publishing the same content on multiple platforms, both candidates are keen to engage with their constituents. On their social channels, both candidates eagerly respond to followers who comment on posts, even engaging some in an online dialouge.
Additionally, although Ed Miliband and the Labour Party is behind in the number of social followers it has acquired in comparison to David Cameron and the Conservatives, Labour has the most positive social mentions by far of any other political party.
The #VoteLabour hashtag has gone viral on several social channels, with users encouraging others to vote, sharing Miliband’s campaign points and making unfortunate disparaging comments about Cameron and the other political candidates. Miliband can also boast the ‘Milifandom’ social media campaign which popularises Miliband’s more human-focused campaign.
However, neither Ed nor David can compare to Obama. It wasn’t just the sheer mass of social followers that Obama managed to attain during his 2008 presidential bid. It was also the way he engaged and inspired voters.
Nicola Sturgeon – a social media campaigner above them all?
Although Miliband and Cameron are the leaders of the two largest political parties, it is Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP who has truly captured the attention of social media users and is the closest to being the UK’s socially savvy Barack Obama.
Sturgeon and the SNP’s use of social media goes far beyond any of the other political parties. With varied (and un-copied) content across all platforms, including Facebook Q&As, videos and re-tweeting followers’ posts, the SNP with Sturgeon at its head, has a personal and, I believe, more authentic voice.
Sturgeon is considered so social media savvy that Twitter’s European chief hailed her as the most “superb on Twitter”. During Jeremy Paxman’s TV interview of Miliband and Cameron, the SNP responded to all the questions in real time using the hashtag #TheWiderDebate.
Sturgeon currently has:
- 204,914 Facebook followers
- 94,345 Twitter followers
- Although, not having posted anything on their G+ account, the SNP Google Plus page has 266 followers and 4,740 views
- 443 YouTube subscribers
She, unlike many of her peers, has managed to strike the right chord between using her social accounts politically and personally. She even has a few rules of thumb that she uses when interacting on her favourite social platform, Twitter.
- The first rule is, don’t say anything on Twitter that you wouldn’t stand in front of a television camera and say.
- The secod rule is, don’t tweet after a glass of wine.
She stated, “Social media, for any politician of course, is partly self-promotion, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. But if you want to engage with people, it has to be more than that. The most responses I get on Twitter are when I tweet about things that are not about politics.”
These rules have clearly steered her correctly as she has a 74% positive sentiment along social media.
The move towards an independent Scotland, a Scotland that has more say in Westminster, is a movement that many in the UK have followed closely and, despite certain repurcussions, have rooted for. Sturgeon has been able to ride this sentiment through to her social media presence.
In the 5 weeks leading up to 18th September when Scotland went to the polls for the Scottish Independence Referendum, there were:
- 10 million interactions (posts, comments and likes) across the UK that linked to the referendum
- There were 8.5 million interactions in Scotland alone – almost 275,000 referendum related interaction every single day, far eclipsing Scotland’s population size
The ‘Yes’ campaign was the definitive winner on social media. On Facebook, the campaign has more than 358,290 likes in comparison to 225,481 for the ‘Better Together’ campaign. And while the silent majority won that vote, Sturgeon and the SNP have seen their popularity soar and are predicted to win a huge amount of seats at the General Election.
Social media represents the opinions of many, yet for the moment, it can’t precisely predict the outcome of today’s election. Just as the majority of social users posted in favour of an independent Scotland, when it came down to the votes, the silent majority pushed their vote through and the electorate, especially those more likely to vote, may not be as social media savvy.
It will be interesting to see who comes out on top tomorrow (if anyone). However, it is certainly clear that Nicola Sturgeon is the UK’s leading social media politican and if she continues this way must be all but guaranteed a continued term in office as First Minister of Scotland at the 2016 Socttish Parliament general election.
If you haven’t already, happy voting!