The Digital Election

In the 2008 Presidential Election, we witnessed relatively unknown candidate Barack Obama become front and center of the race. Through an engaging social media campaign and a well oiled public relations team Obama would go on to become the 49th President. Fast forward to 2016 and Donald Trump has become the first “twitter – based” presidency. Trumps use of Twitter has become a significant breakthrough for social media in politics. It allowed Trump to utilise and connect personally with his supporters, slam his opponents and outline his policies all in the one space. Jump to 2017, Corbyn’s unexpected rise in popularity in the UK General Election seemed to be because of a surge in Labour’s youth vote which has been attributed to their social media strategies. Two years later, we are in what could be the most important General Election the United Kingdom has seen and it’s already begun to be dominated by social media.

Below, I have listed some ways in which political parties and their leaders have started to use social media to advance their campaigns.

BLURRING THE TRUTH

We are all very aware of the impact ‘fake news’ can have on elections, no thanks to Donald Trump. However, a more sophisticated form has now emerged where videos of interviews have been edited to make those in question appear in a negative light. The first week of campaigning has been dominated by the Conservative party posting a video of a “Good Morning Britain” Interview with Labour party member Keir Starmer. In the video tweeted on the Conservative parties account, it appears to show the Labour member unable to answer a question on their parties policy towards Brexit. Although when played alongside the full interview, it shows the video has clearly been edited, as Starmer answered the question immediately.

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This clip tweeted by the Conservative party became one of the most watched videos by a political party or party leader since the vote to hold a general election. Despite the high number of viewers, it’s hard to gauge whether or not these viewers approved or disapproved of the tweet. For those who look into it, it can easily sway public opinion against the Conservatives or vice versa. The public may only look at the original tweet and may believe Labour’s members still don’t know their stance on Brexit.

THE TWITTER SCREENSHOT STRATEGY

If you have the usual social media sites, you will definitely have noticed screenshots of tweets by party leaders and political parties making their way on to Instagram and Facebook. The reason being, Twitter has fewer users than other sites but can easily kick-start the conversation on Facebook & Instagram when these are shared. Jeremy Corbyn has now started using the screenshot to reach a wider audience, his main social media platform is Twitter, and evidence suggests that those who talk politics on twitter tend to support Labour. Hence why Corbyn has now began posting screenshots of his tweets on to Facebook.

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Conservatives have also been posting screenshots of tweets and not just their own tweets, but other party members in order to criticise them. They posted a screenshot of a Corbyn tweet regarding Brexit policy labeling it as “dither & delay”. Instagram, which is generally known for its pleasing aesthetic is also seeing a large amount of screenshotted tweet posts. Both Corbyn and Johnson have been posting simple screenshots on their profiles, as it stands however Corbyn has been receiving much more interactions with his posts.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Both Corbyn and Johnson have started to use Snapchat for campaigning posts hinting at their attempts to engage with an even younger audience. The posts mainly combine video with graphics and text, however, don’t seem overly informative.

RELATABILITY & PERSONALITY

Now more than ever, the importance of personality and being relatable to the younger generation is crucial for politicians. What Johnson seems to lack in relatability, Corbyn has definitely taking advantage with this through the use of his videos on his personal Instagram account.

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The six second video clip above garnered over 175,000 views and has been by far the most successful on a politicians personal account. All of the parties seem to have raised their game on Instagram since this and there has been an increase in most political parties followers. There are over 20 million Instagram accounts in the UK with the majority of those users under 45. This is a key demographic that Labour really want to reach and its clear that they are going the right way about it.

A lot has changed since 2017 when Labour outsmarted the other political parties with their digital campaign. They can no longer be certain of dominance across all digital platforms. However, Labour’s strategy of attacking the rich through Twitter & Facebook have been well – received and they continue to garner the most interactions. For how long it will stay that way, we don’t know. I suspect a few more twists in this digital election.

Eoghan Gilmore is a final year Bsc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – eoghangilmore , LinkedIn – https://ie.linkedin.com/in/eoghan-gilmore-106a89164