In a year of intense political and corporate scandal, both in the UK and abroad (DSK, the Euro, the London riots!), the London Mayor elections were surely expected to be the most actively participated to date.
Londoners had seen their streets burn and witnessed scenes which they believed were only possible in the politically unstable conflict zones of the Middle East.
Yes, election apathy has been a rising statistic ever since the high days of 1950 where 84% of us used our right to vote, reaching an all-time low of 59% in 2001, but there has been a post millennium rise, which has seen more voters take to the ballots (65% at last count), both nationally and for the London Mayor elections (although the record for the mayor elections is just 45%).
Now one could speculate that the rise in participation is a direct correlation with the new communications world, which gives more candidates the freedom to express their policies and opinions across more mediums, reaching even more people, how they want to be reached. This is something that seemed to work for Obama, so surely what works in the US, can work anywhere?
Looking at the efforts from the main players shows that they recognised the benefits of the new mediums of communication. Along with leaflets which didn’t have the candidates’ names on them (Ken), and booklets received through the post late on the day of the elections, the internet and mobile were also used to varying degrees, though perhaps the biggest difference between the candidates could be found on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.
While we know who ultimately won, how did their social campaigns fair, and did it matter?
First up Boris. He came into polling day with a buzzing community of 142k Facebook likes, 13k people ‘talking’ on Facebook, an army of 286k followers on Twitter, though only 52,232 views of his channel and manifesto video on YouTube, which balanced out more positive than negative with 176 likes to 131 dislikes. His tweets were always personal, and connected to relevant events such as St. Patrick’s Day and Vaisakhi. He also kept his tweets varied though limited in number, such that they stayed focussed and didn’t become spam. Facebook was similarly thorough, although his YouTube channel was fairly thin. Overall What’s Hot gives this campaign 8/10.
Ken’s stats were a comparably punitive 6,711 likes on Facebook, with 1.6k people talking there, only 24k Twitter followers, but a leading 91,322 channel views on YouTube. His Facebook page looked very lonely indeed, and exposed a man who clearly wasn’t at home on the social network, showing a low level of activity since becoming a member in 2009, and a sudden ramping of efforts in the run up to the elections. His twitter was run by a campaign team, so was not at all personal, and had far too many tweets (14 on 29th April) to engage with or to provide a focus on message. YouTube was where he won, although the numbers all-round showed a serious disinterest here. Ken sill loses marks for disabling comments and likes/dislikes, and for also producing a manifesto video that shared a near identical and hackneyed creative execution with Brian Paddick’s. Score 3/10.
So while What’s Hot’s social campaign scoring doesn’t completely reflect the closeness of the end result, what is clear is that social media is a powerful constructer of personality and image which are key attributes for an emotional bond. So with 54% of Boris supporters giving “personality” as the reason (they like Boris or dislike Ken), and just 27% giving a “party” reason (they generally vote Tory or dislike Labour), social – while difficult to measure – is simply essential.
Another victory for emotional communications.