June 15, 2017Published by: Leah Domenet

How social media won the battle for voter engagement

A week on from the general election, one of the most startling results from the 2017 campaign was the huge increase in the number of young voters.

While we still await official figures, it has been reported that 72% of 18-24 year olds voted on Thursday, a massive increase from 44% in 2015. Many commentators have credited this boost in youth voter engagement to social media.

As my colleague, Sharmin, outlined on the blog last month, this election was a chance to see the power of social media campaigns on a national level, and we certainly did.

Social media played a key role in the political debates. From Facebook Live videos with the likes of UNILAD and ITV to celebrity Snapchat takeovers and promoted hashtags on Twitter, the parties pulled out all the stops. With such a large percentage of 18-24 year olds active on the targeted social media channels, it’s almost certain that the huge online presence on social media will have had a significant impact on engaging young people to vote.

There were two notably effective elements which encouraged this demographic to vote; social advertising and celebrities such as Professor Green, Ellie Goulding and Stormzy who appeal to the younger generation, using their influence to encourage their followers to join the electoral register. A great example of this was grassroots campaign group, Grime4Corbyn encouraging youngsters to register, by offering them free tickets to a secret grime gig if they did so. This movement was so successful that on the morning that Labour announced their manifesto, the hashtag #Grime4Corbyn was being used more than #LabourManifesto.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all used social advertising in their strategies, targeting persuasive videos and posts at users and rallying younger voters. Both Labour and Conservatives were expected to spend around £1m on social advertising throughout their campaigns, targeting undecided voters, and those likely to be swayed. It was no secret that they believed Facebook in particular was the key to election success and they used their channels to create engaging content that was then shared organically, sparking conversation amongst 18-24 year olds.

The end product of the combined online activity appears to have been greater awareness of the various parties’ social media channels. Throughout the campaign, Labour, who made appeals to younger voters in particular, gained a huge 1.3m fans / followers across their social media channels, whilst the Conservatives gained an impressive 848k. In such a short period of time, this growth demonstrates the impact of positive engagement on social media.

While we wait for official figures, this election serves as a positive case study for the real-world impact of social campaigns. Despite much of the activity utilised as part of this campaign, social advertising, influencer partnerships and strong social content already being effectively implemented by brands, few will have been able to deliver campaigns that have resonated as strongly with this youth demographic.

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