How has social media shaped this years election?

By Sarrah Ahmed

It’s that time again. Every five years we all get subjected to continuous party campaigns with endless office debates to determine which party has the strongest appeal and the better policies. For the past 6 weeks, party candidates, sponsors and die hard political party fans have been pushing one message or another to us, whether it be the traditional door-to-door canvassing, direct mail, TV debates, advertisements and wait for it…. digital. Now the question on everyone’s lips is “How will the political parties’ use of digital and social media effect the election?

Social media: an integral campaigning tool

Digital campaigning including social media has become increasingly popular, especially since the 2010 election. Five years ago, many a digital folk rightly predicted that ‘digital’ will become an integral tool in the 2015 election. And so it has. The infamous TV debate on April 3rd generated over 1.5 million messages on Twitter, albeit, this is still less than one fifth of the TV broadcast itself. What this does highlight is that nowadays, traditional channels cannot be used on a standalone basis and an integrated campaign plan has to be utilised. A fact we like to highlight to all brands.

A way to communicate with voters

Since political parties have active social media accounts, we are regularly exposed to content concerning polices, audience reactions and opinions whether it be directly from the parties or user-generated content. The hashtag #GE2015 has amassed over 500,000 messages in the last few days with specific hashtags aligned to political campaigns, policies and memes trending over the past few weeks. Remember #EdStone? It’s become so iconic that there are businesses now offering users the chance to create their very own 3D ‘EdStone’.

Brands jumping on the election bandwagon

Even household brands have leveraged the political appeal on digital by piggy-backing off trends. Check out EE’s video ‘This lot are battling for power - we’re giving it away’. A quick fire reaction and on trend campaign that is keeping most entertained throughout today.

My favourite? Reality TV star Joey Essex saying ‘Oh it’s crats? I thought it was Liberal Demo-cats.” This said in a meeting with Nick Clegg and taking a selfie. Saying that, #DogsAtPollingStations seems to be trending right now. Wonders never cease me!

... And the future of digital campaigning?

What remains unclear is there is no fail-safe social media and digital strategy for political parties yet - only time will tell. It’s hard to determine success compared to the other political tools i.e. polling and focus groups. However, what has become apparent is that traditional campaigning is a thing of the past. Digital is here and here to stay. Brands know it and have started to integrate it in their plans. Political parties are now leveraging it. Why? Because we are digital natives. ‘Generation Y’ is influenced by our peers online and our future - ‘Generation Z’ have probably never read a traditional newspaper. Probably. Even Facebook itself is encouraging its users to vote by adding in the ‘I’m a Voter’ link at the top of their newsfeed. By adding this feature in, users are encouraged to be proud voters and share this fact, encouraging camaraderie amongst peers and the younger digital native audience.

Bringing more control to the voter

So, who has controlled the digital sphere this election and come out as King/Queen of Digital? By encouraging a conversation and allowing people to express their thoughts, the biggest influencer in this years election has been you. If your Twitter/Facebook feed is anything like ours then you will have no doubt seen your friends and colleagues share their opinions, wise words and links to various external outlets pushing their political favourite.

We don’t know who is going to be in power, nor can we predict it. However, we can confidently say that this year’s election campaigning has evolved and without a doubt, the coming years will see a drastic change to campaigning, putting more and more power in the hands of the end user.

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