Why the 2015 General Election has been a digital let down
Stephen McCance May 8, 2015
There has been an unprecedented amount of hype around the 2015 General Election, but with the next UK government now decided, we can’t help feel as though the online presence of all parties has been lacking.
Now, to be clear, we don’t mean in terms of press – we’ve all been subjected to the very public inter-party slanging matches and the tabloids have been filled with the usual plethora of publicity stunts – we mean in terms of real online promotion and generating awareness of their actual policies.
We realise that it may sound unusual that we actually WANTED to be advertised to, but when you consider that the turnout for elections has been at its lowest amongst 18-24 year olds at every election since 1966, we can’t help but feel as though an important age demographic has been missed by a lack of online activity. In the past, party leaders could potentially be excused for their lack of interaction with younger voters, but in today’s digital world, almost every 18-24 year old in the country has access to the internet and is sat there waiting to be marketed to via the channels they most interact with – the web, social media and mobile. Due to the sheer accessibility of the age group this time around, we have been decidedly disappointed with the lack of activity aimed at, arguably, the most important demographic.
With the campaigns of each party having come to a close this week as voters headed to the polling stations, we take a look at what we believe each party could have done to attract younger voters to their cause….as well as some of what they chose to do instead. We have focussed on three of the most talked about parties at this election in terms of media coverage; The Conservatives, Labour and the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Whilst we have noted that social media accounts are set up for each party, the interaction levels on the actual content itself is exceptionally low in relation to their following. With the amount of followers the parties have on Twitter, 103,000, 214,000 and 156,000 for UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives respectively, there are a mere handful of interactions from their audiences on each piece of content that they are posting out. The highest interactions are on the Labour Twitter account, but in light of the fact that the election has been imminent, the levels of engagement are pretty poor. One of the best performing tweets, which was for Labour – urging voters to bring in the £8 minimum wage – had a mere 126 retweets and 75 favourites.
All of the materials posted out on social media are overly ‘salesy’ and smack of election campaigns circa 1966. It would seem that whilst the consumer landscape has changed over time to the point of being almost unrecognisable, not much has changed at all in terms of their approach to promotion. In terms of paid social media advertising, we again didn’t see any on either Facebook or Twitter. As these are arguably some of the best performing and most cost effective paid marketing tools available for brand awareness to 18-24 year olds, this was indeed a strange oversight to make.
Whilst we commend them for having websites live, it would seem that they haven’t really taken note of how to approach their target audience, especially those who consume content online. The best way to generate interest through digital marketing is to do so subliminally. Across all three sites, the only one that had a section to help users understand more about the party itself was UKIP – and even that is tenuous. The ‘Learn about UKIP’ section of the site contains only their manifesto and a bit of a blurb about their people. What we would have liked to see would be informative pieces about the politics involved, minus the mud flinging at competitors. A content hub would have been a great tool for use on these types of website, informing and educating on policies, why they are needed, how they would improve things for prospective voters and, most importantly, where they come into the plan as a whole. Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of any substance to information contained on the sites, favouring propaganda and, again, pushy sales wording.
We know very well that retargeting is underused across the board, not just in politics, but we were very surprised to see that not one of the parties were making use of it as a marketing tool. We visited all websites throughout their campaigns, and yet none of us were targeted at a later date to draw us back to the websites. We would have liked to have been followed by positive political messaging, enticing us back to read more about prospective policies contained in their manifestos. Instead, nothing. Not a single remarketing banner.
So, what did they do?
The standard political sales approaches from the 1980s seemed to have been employed by all parties, including irritating phone canvassing, even more irritating knocking on doors and sending letters and leaflets. When all of the Red Cow team were asked, not one of us could recall the last time they purchased something from someone who had cold called them or knocked on their door. There were even a number of laughs in the office when it was suggested that people still use these outdated practices that are intended to persuade, but end up being off putting.
In today’s digital age, prospective voters don’t want to see inter-party arguments, they don’t want to be ‘sold’ to, and they don’t want to hear about how bad everyone else is. They want to know why they should vote for you, why your policies are going to make a difference to the country and to them – it’s high time for one party or other to catch on and take the high road. Be dignified, educate and inform the electorate without laying into competitors or over selling. This includes speaking to prospective voters in ways that resonate with them, and many of the ways that resonate now include online marketing.