Parties and candidates embrace social media

This was the first general election where social media was a large part of the daily narrative. Picture: Jane Barlow
This was the first general election where social media was a large part of the daily narrative. Picture: Jane Barlow
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It WAS billed as the first social media election, the first in which parties and candidates would truly embrace social platforms to share their campaign messages and engage with the electorate.

Over the past five weeks, considerable effort has been expended on sharing and crafting tweets and Facebook posts, on an almost 24-hour production cycle.

While many candidates have used social media to engage with voters, senior figures, leaders and the parties themselves have typically adopted a carpet bombing strategy of slogans, photos, graphics, pledges – and ­attacks.

The major parties have tweeted more than 15,000 times during the campaign. Factor in the smaller Twitter accounts the parties also manage and the total is closer to three or four times that number. The Liberal Democrats’ main Twitter account has tweeted the most, more than 3,200 times in five weeks, while the Conservatives have tweeted just shy of that total.

Each day the major parties have tweeted anywhere between 50 and 90 times a day, from 7am to well past midnight, spewing out facts and figures and attacking each other with vigour. The major parties have also been well co-ordinated during the campaign – preparing rebuttals and attacks to their opponents within minutes of a story breaking.

Overall, it’s debatable how much impact this bludgeoning effort has had in persuading voters to back particular candidates.

The party accounts of the Labour Party and the Conservatives very rarely mention or talk to an actual voter on social media, a digital reflection perhaps of how controlled their campaigns have been.

With the polls set to open, the Conservatives have targeted voters in 23 marginal constituencies via Facebook, telling them that their vote could be crucial in determining the outcome of the election. It is the 21st century equivalent of party political broadcasts; the rise of social platforms like Facebook has allowed parties to focus their messages on very specific parts of the electorate, using not just geography, but also interests, hobbies and behaviour.

Over the past five weeks, all of the parties have expended great effort to grow their social following, through a combination of real growth and paid-for promotion, as well as pushing key messages.