Even with all the criticism and comments surrounding the upcoming election, there is not much evidence of action from the primary players. The content coming from two of the primary political parties that is published via social media has lacked the personal side of the candidates and rather focused on providing inspirational or informative narrative regarding point scoring. While this method may be effective for the candidate’s local communities, the question is whether or not it will reach the swing voters. Is it going to be an effective tactic for reaching the age group of voters who are most active on social media – the 18 to 24 year olds?
The surge to get young people encouraged to vote is more important than ever with the Electoral Commission stating that in the past four general elections, this age group had the lowest turn-out and registration rates. According to the commission figures published in 2014 only 70.2 percent of the 20 to 24 year old age group registered to vote, versus the more than 95 percent of individuals over retirement age.
The Social Election of 2015
In an effort to engage and encourage the younger generation to vote in the UK, the upcoming election has been given the hashtag #GE2015 and being touted as the first social media general election in the UK. This is following a pattern set by US political campaigns, where spending $16 million on a digital campaign effort is not unusual.
However, the method may not be as effective in the UK, mainly due to the way candidates are using the platforms.
How Candidates are Using Social Media
The same course is followed, roughly, by Ed Miliband and David Cameron and their respective political parties each day:
- Summary of the campaign day
- Their achievements to the current date or plans for the near future
- Description of the disaster that the rival political party will be
However, they are missing the point of social, which is to provide a personal and introspective look into the candidate’s lives. Instead, the candidates are opting for the more traditional outlets of a newspaper interview or interview on BBC.
Due to these lacklustre social efforts, they are not engaging the younger voters like candidates in the US make an effort to do. As a result, there are a number of critics who are claiming that this is not a social campaign or election year at all.
An example of these failed efforts lies with Cameron, who is currently one of the UK politicians with the highest number of Twitter followers – just over 980,000. All he uses the platform is to document his campaign efforts. His Facebook page mimics the unoriginal efforts of Twitter.
There is a bit of hope with the Green Party, which created a YouTube channel called “Change the Tune.” This is the one and only piece of content that has been able to reach the viral status online. Even though this was successful, no further efforts have been made by this party.
The Bottom Line
With the UK election getting more and more presidential, Miliband and Cameron both have the chance to use new technology and social channels, including the latest trends – Snapchat and Periscope – to talk with the younger voters in a personal and conversational manner. However, with the cautious approach that has been seen thus far, it is not yet known if there will be any effective or innovative use of social media channels in the next weeks leading up to the actual 2015 election.