Was social media a factor in the Conservatives losing their majority?

The results of last week’s UK election were a surprise to many not least the Conservative party, whose decision to call the election to strengthen their position with an increased majority, seriously backfired. With a 20 point lead over Labour, increasing their majority looked highly likely. So what went wrong?

One factor that played a key part was the role of social media in engaging and motivating first time voters. Whilst both parties utilised social media in their campaigns, it was the Labour party whose campaign was a huge success.

The success of the Labour strategy can be credited to positive, engaging posts which encouraged interaction using relatable videos and images which people shared prolifically, drowning out the predominantly negative, advert led campaign of the Tories.

By the end of the election campaign Jeremy Corbyn’s Facebook page had 1.1 million likes, more than double Theresa May’s 410,00. The number of Twitter followers was similar with May only having 350,000 to Corbyn’s 1.2 million.

Labour’s social media campaign was engaging with users, rather than attacking the opposition, which was the Conservatives strategy. Labour, experimented with a variety of different messages and understood the importance of dynamic photos, celebrity endorsements and videos for making messages more shareable and promoting the party’s message to voters who were not traditionally engaged in conventional politics. The majority of the articles widely shared on social media were predominately pro-Labour, whilst according to analysis by Buzzfeed News of the seven most popular topics about the Conservatives, six were critical.

The Conservatives made use of social media targeting tools, using adverts targeted at marginal constituencies, however because the engagement with Labour’s campaign was so much higher, the ads they were paying for were being drowned out in people’s news feeds by Labour articles that were shared ‘organically’ by friends and family and these messages are always more effective than paid adverts. 

Data from We Are Social revealed that the Labour Party increased its following by 61 per cent across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the six weeks after the election was called. The Conservatives' following rose by just 6 per cent in the same period. This just goes to show the success of their campaign.

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