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The UK’s general elections used to be a reasonably predictable affair. Historically, there were a number of things that always seemed to hold true:
- No incumbent Government ever increases their share of vote
- No opposition party ever wins an election without leading in economy and leadership polling (Labour is currently behind on both)
- Scotland is a Labour stronghold; the South East a Conservative one
But this year, we’re facing new factors we’ve never had to deal with before. The incumbent is the first peacetime coalition and we’re at an all time low of party membership; not to mention the growing popularity of The Green Party, UKIP and the SNP making it a six party system and of course, the potential impact and influence of social media.
In 2010 many were excited at the prospect that social media could play within that election. As it turned out, it was a bit of a damp squib on social. The election was still dominated by traditional media – notably the Leadership Debates and Gordon Brown’s unguarded comments whilst unaware he was still being recorded.
More recently social media has played a part in galvanizing the vote in the Scottish referendum but came unstuck when used to predict on outcome. According to some reports Alex Salmond was drafting his victory speech on the basis of social listening indicating a Yes win when it became clear the No campaign had snatched it.
Even so, social is an incredibly useful tool for parties to spread their messages and capture voters’ support, even if not for predictions of who might eventually win. I’ve been waiting (and still am…) for a UK political party to use social in a truly innovative way that leverages an existing human behaviour and makes a lasting impact on the election.
As you may have read in PR Week or The Drum, we’ve been looking at how the political parties have performed on social channels over the three months to January 2015. With less than 100 days till the General Election, how successful have they been in capturing the online, social audience?
The Conservative Party
The Conservative Party has a presence on all the major social media channels, but focuses on Facebook and Twitter – to varying degrees of success.
Facebook is more integrated into their communications strategy than Twitter, with the majority of posts in the last six months linking back to the press room on their web site. This is an efficient posting strategy; posting links automatically pull through an image and should help combat the reduced reach of other types of content on the platform.
The Page relies heavily on David Cameron in his role as Prime Minister, as expected when the party is performing well on Leadership in the polls. The split of their content focuses on their perceived strengths – leadership and the economy and tackling an area where they’ve been accused of lacking (everyday life):
Conservative Party: Content Pillars on Facebook
The party is less successful on Twitter. Twitter users tend to be more left leaning than right and the Conservatives seem to understand this, and focus less on the platform. The party posts less than any other party we analysed (on average 1.5 posts per day – compared to 8-15 posts from other parties). 70% of Tweets are retweets of David Cameron’s Prime Ministerial account and, as a result, the tone of voice is very formal and it struggles to fit content within its 140 character limit. It seems to be difficult to be statesmanlike on Twitter.
The Labour Party
Labour has a similar posting frequency on Facebook as the Conservatives with a similar number of per post interactions. It publishes across a more balanced number of content pillars – top themes include “cost of living / everyday life” and the NHS, reflecting its key manifesto points.
There’s also a focus on driving party membership and donations and there are links to polls for feedback on its web site – something no other party appears to be doing. The top three posts are all negative in nature, attacking the Conservatives (the party itself rather than Cameron or their specific policies), and all the posts contain a strong call to action to share. In this way, the content appeals to the core Labour voter rather than the broader public like the Conservatives.
On Twitter, Labour feels more at home – perhaps because Twitter itself has more left-leaning audience. The content it produced is tailored to the platform. Images are cropped correctly and there’s a more relaxed tone of voice that fits into the short-form content, probably because it doesn’t quote Ed Miliband as heavily as much as the Conservatives do David Cameron.
UKIP receives the most @mentions than any other party on average on Twitter – partly due to having their first two MPs elected to Parliament in the timeframe we analysed. It also had the fastest Facebook community growth rate over that period, too.
Like all challenger parties it attempts to differentiate itself from the establishment and the Page pretty much achieves that – both in the direction of the content (incisive negative attacks against the Conservatives) and look and feel / tone of the content.
The content particularly lacks a corporate sheen and has more of a fan community feel which fits the everyman angle Farage is trying to exploit. Cleverly, the page rounds up all of Nigel Farage’s comments at the end of the week for a #FarageonFriday post so the content is not overly dominated by him.
On Twitter, the party also does reasonably well, coming a joint second in terms of community growth. And in terms of party leaders, Farage is producing more Twitter conversation than any other party leader.
Party Leaders: Share of Voice on Twitter
The Liberal Democrats
If the last five years have been bruising for the Lib Dems offline, recent social media performance doesn’t bode well for the future. On Facebook, it has the smallest community and the second slowest growth over the last six months. On Twitter, it is only the fourth largest party (behind the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens) with the second slowest growth.
Across both platforms, they talk about topics like mental illness and the death penalty in the US, which, while important to many voters, do not give it the feel of a party gearing up to fight an election. Perhaps the party has decided the best strategy to avoid criticism on social is to choose a socially accepted position on a topic in the UK and promote it. Also, the Lib Dems often refer to themselves in the third person, giving the content a corporate feel.
The Green Party
The Green Party has a small community on Facebook and feels more than a regional / local party rather than a national party, though its growth has been strong. However, the second largest content bucket for The Page is “Other” – content that is hard to categorise into clear pillars, giving the page a slightly random feel. The other largest content buckets are Leadership and the Environment – to be expected.
The Greens see UKIP as their natural opponents and any negative campaigning is directed at that party. In contrast UKIP targets both the Conservatives and The Labour party in its negative campaigning, highlighting who it sees as its main opposition.
On Twitter, the Greens perform better and had the highest community growth in the time frame analysed (albeit from a lower base). The party is very active, posting around 15 Tweets per day – a lot of them retweets of Caroline Lucas, Natalie Bennett and online news outlets. These Tweets promote the Green Party as the party of choice for the youth in society.
The SNP’s social media strategy is the anomaly amongst the parties having been on a campaign footing for the last 18 months or so. Even after the Scottish Referendum, fall out from this impacted its activity – skewing the number of the interactions (upwards) on Facebook and Twitter.
On Twitter, the SNP remains the smallest party – similar to those in power south of the border, its Twitter handle relies heavily on its leader for content, meaning it suffers a similar fate as the Conservatives, coming across as overly formal in the 140 character length.
Where do we stand?
There really is no stand-out party on social media at the moment; all parties could be using social media to communicate and engage in much deeper ways with voters. Current Twitter conversation volumes show that UKIP has stolen a march on the larger parties, partly due to having their first two MPs elected to Parliament in that timeframe. Across its social channels, UKIP looks to be a strong challenger brand, getting its tone of voice right for its audience.
However, looking at this in a more holistic manner, Labour seems more at home than most other parties on Twitter, with a consistent tone of voice and wide reach, talking about the issues that matter to the public. However, using this as a prediction for any kind of result at the election is dangerous at this stage, especially given that most social media predictions were dramatically wrong about the Scottish Referendum.
On Facebook, the Conservative Party’s content is more engaging than Labour’s and appeals to a wider audience. However, Twitter doesn’t feel like a natural home for the Tories; they’re too formal and have a much lower posting frequency than the other parties.
So, at the moment on social media, it’s the challenger parties that seems to be making a play for the potential voters on social with The Green Party and UKIP performing well, albeit, often from a smaller base making percentage growth easier. While the SNP’s growth has been fairly strong, they are hard to judge because their social channels have been positively affected by the Referendum even after September.
When looking at the main political parties it’s a draw between The Conservatives and Labour – one outperforming the other on Facebook and Twitter respectively. Overall, The Lib Dems appear to be out of the social media race and the SNP is an unknown. So very much like the election in general, the social media performance of the parties make it difficult to pick a winner with any degree of certainty.
GlobalWebIndex’s latest figures show the major social networking winners and losers from 2014 – with Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram growing the fastest as Facebook saw declines in all age groups and regions. Jason Mander, Head of Trends at GWI, exclusively talks us through some of the key trends and findings from the new GWI Social report.
2014 was the year of the smaller networks; while Facebook saw a small drop in active usage and the other big players (Twitter, YouTube and Google+) all recorded relatively gentle increases, it was the younger, tier-two networks like Pinterest (+97%), Tumblr (+95%) and Instagram (+47%) which experienced rapid rises in their active user bases.
Of course, it’s easier for these smaller networks to record substantial increases as they start from lower starting points; nevertheless, it’s pretty telling that Facebook saw a 9% fall in active users across 2014, and that this decline was consistent across all regions and age groups – peaking among 16-24s (-11%), 25-34s (-12%) and in Asia Pacific (-12%).
One of the most striking trends to emerge from this data is just how many of us have become multi-networkers – those who maintain accounts on a range of social platforms. Outside of China, for example, a third of internet users have visited YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in the last month – dispelling the notion that there is no or little overlap between the audiences of the leading networks. Just look at engagement rates among Facebook visitors: 9 in 10 of them are also accessing YouTube each month, while close to half are visiting Twitter too. On average, in fact, online adults now have accounts on 5.54 networks and are actively using some 2.82 of them.
Predictably, 16-24s are at the very forefront of this trend with an average of 6.55 accounts each; in contrast, 55-64s are maintaining accounts on just 2.85 services. When it comes to active usage, though, 25-34s overtake the 16-24s. Contributing factors to this include 25-34s remaining more loyal to Facebook and being the most likely to use professional networks such as LinkedIn. Equally significant is that 16-24s are the most likely to have adopted the newest networks: they score the highest figures when it comes to membership of Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. So, 16-24s might be the most visible networkers with accounts on the highest number of platforms, but 25-34s are the most engaged.
One consequence of these multi-networking behaviours is that we’re spending more and more time on the internet. Average daily time spent online via PCs, laptops, mobiles and tablets grew from 5.55 hours in 2012 to 6.15 in 2014 (with social networks climbing from 1.61 to 1.72 hours over the same period). That’s important food-for-thought given how many commentators have been willing to proclaim that the social networking “bubble” has burst and that the top networks are dying. Rather, we’re actually spending more time on networks now than in the earlier part of the decade – with the rise of the mobile internet, and the ability it affords us to connect to a wide range of networks at any time and from any location, being a major driver of this.
Note: GlobalWebIndex conducts quarterly research across 32 markets, representing nearly 90% of the global internet audience. It surveys more than 170,000 internet users per year, including 30,000 in both the US and UK. Download a free summary of the new GWI Social report here.
Until a few years ago, the way marketing thought about video revolved around a very basic concept: the TV advert. This approach meant that a disproportionate amount of strategic, creative and production effort went into the creation of a single piece of content. Although it was adaptable to several formats, could be watched on several channels and inspire related content, the TV spot was a single, isolated element.
Today’s reality is very different. In the past brands’ stories could be told through one, or perhaps a few, TV ads. Today, they need to be part of a conversation, evolving through many different pieces of content in different forms.
The stories brands want to communicate must adapt with the way people use the internet, and the devices they use it on. They must unfold in channels where people want to engage, without interrupting them, choosing the best times and frequencies that are relevant for people’s lives. This approach is the very foundation of a content strategy; and this includes video content. Progressive brands are embracing this approach and integrating it into their strategies.
This doesn’t mean getting rid of TV ads – quite the opposite. It does mean rethinking them, making them part of a content ecosystem that builds a story that people want to engage with.
The number of different ways to communicate with audiences is growing constantly, stimulated by the social channels themselves. For example, as well as giving an advantage to video content in the newsfeed through “autoplay”, Facebook is experimenting with video channels inside Pages, for people who are interested in video content from a brand; a concept similar to YouTube’s “Channels”.
It’s not only about choosing communication tools that are relevant to modern media consumption patterns. It’s about developing content for all the interest categories that a brand wants to interact with. Just look at all the YouTube “Creators” that have grown hugely in popularity; what do they have in common? Their focus is on a single specific type of interest, not a generic approach to video content.
This approach to editorial video strategy is essential for brands that want to develop a deeper relationship with their communities. Studying behaviors, tastes and needs of people is even more crucial now for brands. In the past, TV ads (and their publishing online, e.g. through pre-roll ads) has been totally detached from ongoing editorial plans, or just tied to it by conceptual references.
Today, winning brands are choosing to put editorial planning at the core of their content strategy, where creative is expressed through long-form, mid-form or short form video. TV spots are part of this, extending it, making it more frequent and familiar to people. But it’s just a part of a whole system. A TV ad is now just part of the editorial ecosystem: it’s not the isolated “video star” it used to be.
I joined Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg TV last week to discuss how brands need to change the way they approach social media in light of the changes we highlighted in our new Digital, Social & Mobile Worldwide in 2015 report.
As you’ll see from the video of our chat above, the most valuable findings to come out of this report are not the staggering numbers, nor the impressive, growth of all things digital; much as these things are important, it’s the change in the ways that people are using digital connectivity, and why they’re using it, that has the greatest significance for marketers.
If brands are to make best use of the huge opportunities in social, they’re going to need to make a few changes of their own.
1. Mobile Is More Organic
The biggest shift highlighted in this year’s report was the increasing adoption of mobile social – in particular the rapid adoption of chat apps like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger, all of which are growing at averages of more than 25 million active users per month.
But that has some serious implications for brands:
- Very few people choose to interact directly with brands on social media. Instead, almost all of their chat-app activity involves direct, real-time conversation with friends. They may well be talking about brands, of course, but marketers can’t see this activity, nor can they measure it.
- If people are sharing branded content, those shares are all organic. They’ve actively chosen to take the content or the link, move to a new app, and then share it. For this to happen, there needs to be a clear, personal benefit to doing so. The traditional ‘share this with your friends for a chance to win’ tactics aren’t going to work either, because there’s no way for brands to track that behaviour.
- Because of this, we’re going to need to adopt a content approach that’s more about inspiring active, peer-to-peer conversation than it is about stimulating the social media head-nodding of likes and RTs.
Key tip: make marketing worth talking about, rather than talking about yourself
2. It’s Time To Grow Up
Too many marketers believe the world revolves around their brands. However, just as toddlers learn to realise that they’re not the centre of the universe, and that they need to exist in social harmony with other people, so marketers need to accept that people aren’t living their lives waiting for the next advert or innovation from their brands.
It’s time marketers learnt the key social skills of empathy, consideration and generosity, otherwise we’re going to continue being that kid who turns up to a friend’s birthday party and expects to be the centre of attention
Key tip: it’s not about you.
3. Think Longer-Term
Most brands still approach social media thinking they’re channels to deliver immediate sales. However, this is a mistake – for two important reasons.
Firstly, people’s primary motivations for using social media aren’t related to learning about a shampoo’s ingredients, or hearing about a credit card’s 1% cash-back offer. People use social media for their own interests – principally to interact with the people they care about, and to tell their own stories. For the most part, they don’t care about brands unless those brands help them with their own, personal objectives. As a result, brands’ social media activities need to be built wholly around their audience’s motivations, rather than obsessing about their own selfish desires to ‘increase likes’ or drive this month’s sales.
This last point brings us to the second, critical part of the mistake, though: many communications channels are well suited to driving those short-term sales conversions, but no other channel offers the opportunities to interact with people on a one-to-one basis, at scale and over time, that social media do. As a result, marketers would do better to use all those other channels for short-term uplift activities, and focus their social media activities on building longer-term equity and increasing lifetime value.
Key tip: stop getting stuck in ‘one night stand’ marketing, and build longer-term, mutual value instead.
4. Don’t Let Numbers Fool You
Almost every marketer I speak to talks about ‘increasing social media engagement’, but none of them defines it in the same way. What’s more worrying, though, is that many of us are still measuring ‘engagement’ in terms of likes, shares, comments and the like.
However, these metrics are all too easy to game, and this has resulted in a plethora of thoroughly misguided marketing on platforms like Facebook, where marketers and their agencies have focused on those activities that deliver immediate, platform specific results, instead of more meaningful, brand-oriented change.
That’s the reason why so many brand’s Facebook pages focus on quizzes, competitions, and questions. However, far too many of these posts are designed to maximise results, presumably so that the marketers and agencies involved can tell a ‘good story’ to their colleagues in other departments.
But we’re only fooling ourselves. This sort of behaviour is akin to asking our partners to tell us that they love us; while they’ll almost always respond in the affirmative, such behaviour does very little to strengthen bonds or help us achieve the outcomes we really desire.
Let’s be absolutely clear about this: there is no point in managing a social media presence for your brand unless it adds real brand value.
We must, must, must move on from our industry’s obsession with increasing knee-jerk response metrics such as likes and comments, and instead focus on the activities that are actually going to make a difference – to us and to our audience’s lives.
If you can’t explain in a single sentence how your social media activities are improving your brand’s bottom line – rather than that of the social platforms you’re buying advertising from – then it’s imperative that you rethink your brand’s approach to social.
Key tip: measure what matters, not what flatters.
5. Be Sociable
The final point is surely the most obvious, but for some reason, it remains the most overlooked. The secret to success in social media lies in its name: we need to be social.
True friendship isn’t built by throwing lavish parties or creating amazing content, much as that might be the way we first get acquainted. It’s certainly built through attempts to mitigate our own insecurities by asking other people to tell us they love us (i.e. ‘click like if…!‘)
Rather, friendship is built through being a friend: by showing we care about the other person, by talking about the things that we share a common interest in, and by being there for them in the bad times as well as the good.
The brands that will succeed in tomorrow’s longer term are those brands who treat their audiences and consumers as equals, not simply as pawns in their selfish quest for world domination.
Top tip: behave like a true friend, and people are more likely to see you as one
WeChat is testing ads
WeChat has started testing ads in ‘Moments’, its (rough) equivalent to Facebook’s News Feed. So far, the network has been reluctant to include advertising; with 468.1 million monthly active users, this could be big business. Sponsored posts will be marked ‘promoted’.
WhatsApp for web browsers
Want to chat to your mates at work, but can’t get away with using your phone? No, no, me neither. Anyway, say that you did, you can now access WhatsApp through a web client. Just scan a QR code using your phone and you use the messaging app on your computer.
The service works for Android, BlackBerry, Nokia S60 and Windows mobile app users and you’ll have to use Chrome as your browser. WeChat was quick to remind people that it already has a web-based service, which is iOS-friendly.
Twitter brings ‘while you were away’ to iOS
Remember when the Mashup told you about Twitter’s ‘while you were away’ feature? Sure you do. Well, it’s now rolled out to iPhone and iPad users, who will see a quick recap of the top tweets they missed since last time they logged in.
Twitter adds Bing translation tool
Twitter has added a translation service, powered by Bing. Users can now click on a globe icon, which appears in tweets in a foreign language, to have the tweet translated. The new version will appear just below the original text.
Snapchat to launch ‘Discover’
Snapchat is set to release its ‘Discover’ feature at the end of the month. When it does, it’ll be staking its claim as a publisher, posting its own media and that of other companies, including ESPN, CNN and Vice.
Tumblr introduces Creatrs Network
Tumblr has revealed its ‘Creatrs Network’, with which it hopes to connect Tumblr bloggers with brands that want to use their content in ads and marketing. David Hayes, Tumblr’s head of creative strategy, said:
We think the creative class is really the next generation that’s going to come up and change the world and we think we have the largest creative class of any platform.
Bloggers of the world, unite.
Pinterest’s search results hope to appeal to men
Pinterest is introducing new search filters, aimed at making the network more popular with men. Now, search results will change depending on the gender you selected when signing up. According to the company, men are searching for apparel, technology, travel, gardening, recipes, gadgets, design, luxury cars, tattoos, and, errrrr, camping.
Pinterest buys Kosei
Pinterest advertising is in for a big year. Shortly after releasing its first Promoted Pins, the platform has purchased Kosei, an ad tech firm that specialises in targeting ads based on ‘relationship and recommendation modelling’.
Transfer money via Twitter
Indian bank, ICICI, has launched a ‘tweet to pay’ function. Users simply need to follow @icicibank and send a DM containing the recipient’s username and amount to be transferred. The recipient doesn’t need to be an ICICI customer, either. On a completely unrelated note, my Twitter handle is @nickmulligan.
Facebook targeting on show for the Super Bowl
Facebook is hoping to show off its ad targeting chops during the Super Bowl on Sunday. A number of brands have already signed up to show different videos to different segments of the undeniably huge audience, including Budweiser and Toyota.
NBC and the social Super Bowl
The Super Bowl isn’t just one of the world’s biggest sporting events, it’s also a rare occassion when people actually want to watch adverts. NBC, the TV network that will be broadcasting the event, is looking to cash in on this, creating a Tumblr that will be populated by ad-related content. This is part of a wider social media strategy, which will include an attempt to break the ‘selfie world record’ on Super Bowl Sunday.
Nissan enlists YouTubers for #withdad
Nissan has teamed up with YouTube stars, including Roman Atwood (below) and Epic Meal Time, to create a set of Super Bowl teaser videos. Under the hashtag #withdad, they focus on ways to get the work/family balance right. Like turning your house into a GIANT BALL PIT.
L’Oréal finding a makeup artist through social
L’Oréal Paris is launching a competition, named ‘The Brush’, with which it hopes to find a brand new makeup artist. The winner, judged from a three-minute video by L’Oréal execs and YouTubers, will receive a one-year contract with the brand.
Brands on Martin Luther King Day
A number of brands posted social media content relating to Martin Luther King Day. Some of it was good, some of it was really rather bad indeed.
— Crayola (@Crayola) January 19, 2015
— Buick (@Buick) January 19, 2015