From taking selfies to debating topical issues online, this was definitely the election that was defined by the surge in digital and social media.
Party leaders were embracing this shift and sought to engage the electorate using Twitter and YouTube. After the initial reluctance from David Cameron to adopt social media, it is interesting to see how the final result may have been influenced with this new interest in the digital realm.
Selfie Sticks, Shunning Twitter and Debates Sparked
For a start, the constant scrutiny available online always needs extra attention. Where some MPs would have shunned Twitter in the past, in this election politicians were seen wielding the selfie stick with ease and filming with high profile vloggers.
The Labour’s advance in social media can be credited to hiring Blue State Digital, the powerhouse behind Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. Ed Miliband’s debate on Russell Brand’s Youtube channel sparked both derision and interest, as Brand eventually rejected previous claims that he wouldn’t vote in the 2015 election. Seeing the Labour leader face tough questions and try to appeal to Brand’s 9 million followers was very admirable.
Who Did it Best?
Building an online presence for any political party can be a way to reach more people without a massive budget. Labour had considerably less to spend than the Conservatives, who spent a large proportion of their budget on Facebook campaigns. With 514,362 likes on their main page, they instead targeted individual constituencies, backing their candidates consistently on a local level instead of creating viral content for a global audience.
The Green Party led the race for great content with this viral video Change the Tune a month before the election. This showed the UKIP, Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative party leaders doing their best boyband routine and singing the same song. As the political parties in the race have grown, the Greens wanted to be an outspoken voice against the bigger parties, but failed to maintain the momentum after the first week.
Who Didn’t Do it at All?
With the growing influence of UKIP early in the campaign, it was revealed that the leader Nigel Farage doesn’t write his own tweets or even own a smartphone. The head of UKIP social media, Raheem Kassam writes them and likens social media to a press release. With the lack of genuine engagement, this allowed people to scrutinise manifesto policies at their own pace. The #WhyImVotingUkip hashtag allowed voters to speak out and others to poke holes in their policies. As the run-up to the election intensified, this took a comical turn as the young electorate took matters into their own hands.
Exchanging Votes Online
In the final week, the polls indicated that another coalition government would have to be formed as no party had an outright majority. Media outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Mirror capitalised on this with their own interactive coalition builder. This allowed people to see which parties were likely to partner up and look after the issues that mattered most. Tactical voting became a thing as the website VoteSwap allowed Labour and Green supporters to exchange votes if the opposing party was more likely to win there. This elaborate scheme was to stop the Conservatives from gaining a seat and news of the site ballooned across Facebook and Twitter.
It’s clear to see how the influence of digital changed the pace of the election campaign, but as the outcome shows, this is a completely new era of politics. As voters were able to think tactically and access key party promises quickly, people were able to engage more, share more and make a more educated decision.