Facebook’s Impact on the British Election

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On June 8, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party sent shockwaves through the political establishments in Britain and across the world by performing far better than the pundits had forecasted in the 2017 General Election. Like all modern campaigns, social media platforms were a key battleground. An article from June 11 in The Independent helps us understand why online matters and how to run an effective digital campaign.

Both sides, Labour and Conservative, invested heavily in Facebook advertisements. Facebook is great for organizations, like political campaigns, that want to target specific audiences as you can target ads based on location and other information people have shared on their profile such as age, gender, relationship status, education, profession and interests.

The power in Facebook advertising comes when users engage with the posts. The more users share, comment or like a post, the more it will appear in user feeds. This is where Labour won the online campaign. They expertly shared content that users wanted to engage with.

According to BuzzFeed News, stories about prominent celebrities endorsing Corbyn were shared nearly 1 million times and stories about Labour’s rise in the polls were shared over 500,000 times. Labour also produced and marketed their own content, including videos directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach. Their final video, which was set to Lilly Allen singing “Somewhere Only We Know,” looked more like a music video than a political ad. Momentum, an outside group supporting Labour, spent £2,000 marketing a video that was seen by 12.7 million Facebook users in the United Kingdom during the last week of the campaign.

In contrast, the Conservative Party spent more than £1million on Facebook adverts attempting to portray Corbyn in a negative light. With a few exceptions, Facebook users didn’t want to engage with the content marketed by the Conservative Party.

The lessons we learned here can be valuable to any organization, not just political campaigns. Social media is a powerful tool. Earned media and self-produced content can reach millions if marketed correctly. With that being said, before spending big on Facebook ads, think about whether or not this is the type of content people will want to engage with and share with their friends.