Friday, May 19, 2017

Facebook: How UK Parties Are Using Facebook

The Financial Times recently wrote an interesting article about how Facebook has become a key battleground in the UK General Election. The Guardian also covered similar ground with this article on voter targeting with Facebook ads. Both of the main parties will spend over £1m in Facebook advertising this year.

One of the interesting aspects is how the parties are using sponsored posts. I am probably unusual in receiving adverts from both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in my Facebook feed. Here are two recent examples.

What is noticeable is how the Conservative Party are targeting specific messages. The message is very specific to Brexit. Now I have no evidence for this but I am assuming they may have targeted me as someone who has posted a lot about Brexit and liked various Brexit posts. if so, then the ad makes sense as it is focusing on a specific issue. The Labour Party ad is very general by comparison and asks me to read about their full range of manifesto proposals.

It seems to me that the trick is to identify potential wavering voters, much as parties do with doorstep canvassing as well as identifying your supporters are and your opponents supporters. The same principle applies to Facebook as you really want to target ads at floating voters and also be specific about the issues that concern them. Facebook potentially gives you this detailed level of targeting.

What you need to avoid is spending money on ads to your own strong supporters or your opponents. Evidence suggests you won't convert a strong supporter of the other side and in fact your ads will cause them to double down on their existing beliefs. Equally you don't need to waste money on ads to your own supporters, it is like Clinton piling up votes in California which are not necessary in the scheme of things.

The FT article says Labour have a system called “Promote” which tailors more than 1,000 versions of their policy proposals to deliver “super local” messages on Facebook. That sounds a good approach to me although I haven't seen any evidence of this yet.  The Gina Miller, Best for Britain, campaign is targeting specific constituencies such as Battersea, Oxford West, Portsmouth South and Preston with messages such as “Prevent an extreme Brexit. Make this the biggest tactical vote in British history.”

In terms of their own Facebook pages the Conservatives top posts are images and two of the top three are attacking the Labour Party as part of their coalition of chaos message. They are using memes such as the Can't Lead, Can't Count image which is designed for sharing.

The Labour Party are leading with videos and a Facebook live video of their manifesto launch. Facebook live videos get higher priority in the feed and we can expect to see more of these. 
In terms of Facebook numbers, as we have seen in previous research, the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, have a much more active base of Facebook supporters. Over 870,000 people like Corbyn's official Facebook page, while 370,000 like May's official page. Corbyn also has more Facebook followers than the Labour Party which has 680,000 compared to the Conservatives 575,000 followers.