Three reasons the Conservative Party failed at social media last year

Posted on March 20, 2018

 

This week, it’s been revealed that in the run-up to the general election last year, the Conservative Party spent over £18.5m on their election campaign. Of this, £2.1m went towards Facebook advertising, dwarfing the Labour Party’s Facebook spend of roughly £500K.

Despite this, the election was widely seen as much more of a success for Labour than the Conservatives. Although the Tories remained the most voted for party and Theresa May stayed in No. 10, they lost their majority and Labour took several seats from them, including previous Conservative stronghold Kensington.

This proves that a budget isn’t everything with social media marketing, and that it’s also about how you spend it, but what did the Conservatives do wrong? Here are three possible points on which they fell short:

1. Negative campaign

When any business tries to promote itself, they normally highlight what it is they do better than anyone else. In politics, there’s an unhealthy tendency to spend more time highlighting the weaknesses and dangers of the opposition, almost creating a message of “we’re rubbish, but they’re even worse!”

Take this advert. This is reportedly the most seen British political advert of all time, with more than 1.3 million views on YouTube, and 4.6 million on Facebook by the start of June 2017:

The video certainly had reach, but all it did is attack Jeremy Corbyn. It didn’t give a single reason to vote Conservative other than “it’s him or Theresa May”. With young people the main users of social media, and them also being the age group most in support of Corbyn, the campaign seems cynical and misdirected.

Labour’s campaign, meanwhile, was a bit more positive, with popular musicians like Jme involved to communicate messages that resonated with young voters.

Admittedly, the Tories are up against it here, with not so many fashionable celebrities keen to declare their support in Theresa May and company!

2. Poor choice of targets

Digital Strategy Consulting cited reports that the Conservatives spent significantly in marginal constituencies, yet most of these constituencies went the way of Labour when the election results came in.

Perhaps they should have looked at who they were marketing to as well as where they lived. I live in the Wirral West constituency, which was seen as a marginal seat, and saw plenty of these Conservative ads. A quick look through my Facebook page though would indicate that there is pretty much zero chance of me voting Conservative, so these ads were a waste of time and money. In the end, my constituency went from a Labour majority of 400 in 2015, to one in excess of 5,000 in 2017.

3. Shutting down communication

Lastly, it’s noticeable that the Conservative party YouTube channel does not allow any comments on its videos. This is blocking discussion, and doesn’t embrace the multi-channel communication for which the internet and social media are known.

Being a Conservative has never exactly been cool, and the party’s chairman recently complained that online abuse is making social media very difficult for them. It seems those with right-of-centre viewpoints may need to find a way to express themselves online without veering to the ‘alt-right’, which has actually thrived in the social media era.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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