It was the tweet wot won it (well almost!)

Written by Stewart Pimbley|15th June 2017


In 1992 The Sun took credit for the Tory election win. The Sun and all the nationals can’t make the same claim this time around and indeed will never be able to make that claim again.

The election marked a change in the way the electorate receives its information. A growing proportion of voters no longer make their decisions based on the traditional media – and this will only grow. The very idea of getting information from a product made out of trees, transported to every corner of the country and then it is still 12 hours out of date just seems so alien. And when it is put like that, it seems madness in this age of instant updates. The young don’t read newspapers like their parents and grandparents. They have grown to voting age knowing that you can get news at the touch of a button and for free. News is consumed in soundbites on the go rather than via leisurely reads at the breakfast table. Opinions are formed on the bus, in the bar or in bed with the flick of a screen.

Jeremy Corbyn’s team knew this. They would never sway the establishment and it wasn’t even worth trying. They could only rely on The Guardian and Mirror and this was shaky at the start. So tap into the electorate directly – on the bus, in the bar and in bed. This had been tested with the growth of the party membership – it just needed to be scaled up for the nation.

Look across the Atlantic at Trump’s victory and there are many similarities. Trump, the underdog and outsider, bypassed the mainstream media, spoke directly to his supporters online and used online advertising like never seen before. The Corbyn team won’t like the comparisons but the similarities are there to be seen. The US figures speak for themselves:

  • Overall, online interest in candidate Trump was three times higher than Clinton, according to Google trends analysis. Trump was the most Googled candidate, and also most mentioned on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Trump had 4 million more Twitter followers than Clinton.
  • The US public’s trust in mass media dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history. Fewer than one in three Americans have confidence in the media to “report the news fully, accurately, and fairly”.

Now look at the Corbyn campaign stats:

  • Corbyn’s official Twitter and Facebook pages posted 925 messages over the election campaign, receiving 2.8 million shares.
  • May’s pages posted 159 times, nearly six times less than the Labour leader, and her messages were shared just 130,000 times.
  • Both Mr Corbyn’s Twitter and Facebook pages increased their number of followers about 45 per cent over the campaign, from 850,000 each to more than 1.2 million apiece.
  • In contrast, Mrs May’s followers grew by 20 per cent, to 350,000 on Twitter and 420,000 on Facebook.
  • Labour relied heavily on online campaigning to draw support and the number of likes on Facebook shot up by almost 75 per cent over the election period, compared with just 10 per cent for the Conservative Party.
  • Labour’s greater activity and focus on social issues, particularly healthcare, contributed to the party’s posts on Facebook and Twitter being shared almost three times more in total than those by the Tories, whose main issues were the leadership battle and Brexit.
  • Posts by the official Labour Party Facebook page were shared more than one million times and received more than 1.7 million positive reactions from Facebook users between the election being called on April 18 and the polls closing on June 8.
  • Posts, pictures and videos from the Conservatives’ page were shared almost 360,000 times in total, and received just under 700,000 positive reactions over the campaign period when the number of followers rose from 570,000 to 630,000.

Of course, you can always argue there are statistics, damn statistics and lies – but it really does seem we’ve reached a tipping in terms of the influence social media has on elections. There is no doubt we are almost at the stage when the difference between a good social media campaign and bad social media campaign will decide the result. Any politician who ignores this does so at their own peril.

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