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Social media: the key driver for politics and business

You may be bored with elections: you might even share ‘Brenda from Bristol’s’ frustration and annoyance at the prospect of having to trail out to the ballot box to put your X in the box yet again, but at the end of the day that’s politics for you. You probably already know all political parties want your vote, and that they will move heaven and earth in an effort to get it. But, what you probably didn’t know is that votes this time around won’t necessarily just be won by canvassing and knocking on doors; in this latest election the weapon of choice is social media – or, more specifically, targeted social media.

So how are political parties going to win our allegiance online? Well, take the Labour party as an example. In the last election the party shied away from using Facebook; in fact, it’s total spend through its election campaign was a paltry £16K. Contrast that with the Conservatives who spent an eye-watering £1.2 million on Facebook advertising in the run-up to the last general election. Was it good value? Well, we all know how that one ended, so the answer is probably yes, it was.

So what is the Labour party planning this time? Well, not only is the party only going to splash the cash: it’s going to spend its money on targeted Facebook advertising, using a specially developed digital tool called ‘Promote’. Promote will tie in with Labour’s voter database and thereby enable the party to identify and target specific individuals in a constituency for candidates to target messages to. Speaking about the strategy to the Guardian, national elections co-ordinator, Andrew Glynne, explained how the demographic tool will help the party target people on specific issues they feel fervently about, issues like the Waspi, for women born in the 1950s and opposed to recent changes to the state pension scheme:

“We can now, using Promote, identity the Waspi woman in a particular constituency and we can let them know what Labour’s policies are.”

“One of the things that we’ve learned, particularly from Sadiq Khan’s campaign in London for the mayoralty, is that we can now use social media in a very sophisticated way, targeting the people that we want to reach out to with certain messages, certain policy announcements.”

“This is probably the first election where social media will probably have a significant impact,” he added.

That final comment might surprise many in the world of politics and advertising. The use of social media in politics is nothing new. Obama set the trail blazing in both his election victories with widespread use of Facebook and Twitter. The Conservative party, too, pumped huge sums into Facebook advertising ahead of the 2015 elections according to the Electoral Commission. Writing in The Drum, Edelman’s Will Walden and Lucy Thomas, said:

“[The Conservatives’] secret weapon in 2015 was to find and target the so-called ‘shy Tories’, producing thousands of versions of digital ads, tweaked to their audience, hammering home the message of stability v chaos.”

The next general election looks set to be the social media election. Labour is targeting specific individual on Facebook using its demographic Promote tool, whilst the Conservatives, according to Bloomberg, have redrafted in the services the 2015 social media strategists, Craig Elder and Tom Edmonds under the watchful eye of political strategy heavyweight, Lynton Crosby.

Any business with an interest in how the targeted use of social media can help drive campaigns and boost sales might be wise to watch and learn. The price, unfortunately, is 6 more weeks of wall-to-wall online and offline campaigning; but maybe it’s a price worth paying of it can help your business better engage with audiences and increase conversions.

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