The buzz about this year’s General Election being the first ‘truly social media election’ won’t dampen, and while there’s no doubt it plays a bigger part now than ever, we need to remember that the influence of social media on people’s final decision may not be as strong as some think. I spent a lot of time analysing social media during the Independence Referendum and social media played a huge part in the sharing of information, opinion and was a vessel for debate. During that time, indicators from social that Yes would win by a large proportion did not ring true, so how much does it actually influence people? It may be the case that there’s never a true social media election, but it is a very important channel for the parties and the people and when used as part of an integrated campaign, should be effective.

I’ve decided to do some analysis for ‘#GE2015’ and the first swathe of this will be a look at current use of social media by the ‘key’ parties.  This is an assessment of their use of the social media platforms from my professional perspective. The measures of this are:

  • The quality of their updates, in-line with best practice. Also an assessment of their creativity.
  • Their communication – are they having conversations or it is just broadcast?

My key focus will be Facebook and Twitter, as they are still the dominant platforms, especially within politics.

This is not an assessment of their political messaging, policies or stances. I’m focussing on the official and main accounts for the broad parties, i.e. not supporter accounts or regional presences. I’m also not considering the size of their followers or ‘likes’ as this can be misleading due to paid growth. Another area I can’t consider is paid advertising on both platforms as I will not be exposed to it all from all parties.

So, if that is all clear, I’ll get going!

The first two assessments will look at the parties that are currently in power under the coalition. This post looks at the Conservatives.

Facebook

Official Facebook Page – facebook.com/conservatives

Update quality

This looks at the use of imagery, copy and video to create impactful and engaging updates. For all parties I will look at their three latest posts (original posts, not shares from other Pages). I’m looking at the Conservative’s Page on 08/03/15 and the first update I see is this…

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 14.57.18

The first thing here is the sheer volume of copy. They’ve effectively copied an article into a Facebook update, with no image. What’s wrong with this? Well, Facebook updates that contain an image achieve wider reach for a start. It’s also not common practice to post such swathes of text within a Facebook update.  A user has to click ‘Continue Reading’ in order to absorb the full message – it extends to 70 lines of text! The best approach here would be to hold the full article on their website and create a punchy Facebook update with a great image that urges people to click through to read it all. Zero creativity!

Update score – 1/10 

The next update is this…

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 15.17.08

This is a fairly standard approach – upload some images to an album, write a caption and publish. I like the fact that they are showing different groups of supporters – this adds a human touch to things. They should have added their party logo and a short-URL to each image in order to make more of the image opportunity. There is a link within the update copy, clearly I can’t tell how many clicks it has attracted, however it’s good to see they’ve been wise enough to do this. There’s little evidence of creativity here.

Update score – 6/10

And finally

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 15.23.04

This update is centred around a video. Kudos has to be given for uploading the video directly into Facebook as opposed to using a YouTube or similar link – this has been shown to achieve wider organic reach and allows for paid ‘boosting’, which using a link does not. The copy within the update is sharp and to the point, making it easy to absorb for the user. They’ve included a CTA (call to action) asking people to share, which is wise and may well have aided the 1,550 shares the post had received at my time of looking. Video is a key content type and it’s good to see it being used here.

Update score – 8/10

Update average score – 5/10

A middle-of-the-road score. They’ve let themselves down with a lack of consistency in quality, image personalisation and focussing on sharper copy. No creativity is evident.

Responsiveness 

This gauge looks at the responsiveness to questions, comments etc from the Page. Again, I’ll look at their last three posts. This isn’t suitable for a numerical score, so will be allocated on a very poor to excellent basis.

Across the three posts, there are hundreds of comments. A number of those are genuine questions about policy, news etc. There is not one answer from the Page admins. While it is wise to let the users drive a conversation, they’re missing opportunities to engage with potential voters by leaving them hanging. It’s all too broadcast-led.

Responsiveness rating – very poor

Facebook has not been a roaring success for the Conservatives. Next up is Twitter.

Twitter

Official account – twitter.com/conservatives 

As with Facebook, I’m looking at the last three tweets from the account, focussed on original updates and not including re-tweets. I feel this approach is fair as it represents a reasonable level of content that a user would absorb.

Tweet 1

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 15.53.10

This tweet mentions Nicky Morgan, a Conservative MP. Today is International Women’s Day and Nicky has written a post about a march she is attending. It makes sense to try and drive people to this, but there’s a major failure here – the link to the article forces users to visit Facebook to read it. This is right against best-practice, they really should be hosting the article on their site and leading people there. This approach assumes that all people that may see this tweet would be happy visiting Facebook to read it, or have a Facebook account. A website is accessible to all who have online access.

There’s also no image used in this tweet –  using an image achieves stronger stand-out in a user’s feed, but also can contain messaging within. They have used the IWD hashtag, which will put their tweet within that stream, however, if they were smart, they should have used #GE2015 or another election related tag to put this tweet into that stream too. Zero creativity.

Update score – 2/10

Tweet 2

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 16.08.51

This update is aimed at engaging with those that have signed up to join their campaign. It’s also aiming to drive people to find out more. It achieves this and there’s not a huge amount to fault. They’ve uploaded multiple images, which could have been branded. In order to potentially extend the reach of this, they again should have added a generic election tag such as #GE2015. Again, there’s a giant lack of creativity.

Update score – 6/10

Tweet 3

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 16.18.45

Here’s a generic tweet that is again looking to drive people to sign-up for their #Team2015 campaign. Plus points are the use of the #GE2105 tag. Again, there’s no image, a big missed opportunity to reinforce a key message and catch the eye. It’s just a very standard tweet.

Update score – 4/10

Update score average – 4

Responsiveness 

I’ve looked over 24 hours of in-bound tweets and there is not a single response to a question. Very poor again, especially within the highly-public Twitter.

Responsiveness rating – very poor

Twitter hasn’t set the heather a-light either for the Conservatives!

Summary

A below average overall score for the Conservatives. They’re frequent in their posting, but are failing to take a creative approach or cover all best-practice points. A distinct lack of responsiveness had made their social media approach purely broadcast. I’ll be looking at all parties again before the big day comes and the Conservatives must improve if they want to win this battle.

I’ll be assessing the other side of the coalition next. Scroll down to subscribe to my blog and ensure you don’t miss my General Election 2015 coverage! You can also read all of my GE2015 coverage here.

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