Julie Zerlang, explains how social media played a key role in this year’s #GE2015
What do the local election in Bristol and the Scottish referendum on independence have in common? Social media predicted an altogether different outcome than the one we got.
We saw it with the Scottish referendum which, had you asked Twitter or Facebook, would have seen the ‘Yes’ camp celebrate a rather triumphant victory. And we saw it here in Bristol, where local candidates battled it out on social media in rather inventive and, crucially, very engaging ways, both in terms of conversations and voter turn-out. Digital campaigning helped secure a voter turn-out of almost 72% in Bristol West, a key three-way marginal seat which also happens to be home to the Grayling SW office. So how did they do it?
Engage your grassroots (and make sure everyone sees it)
People use social media for many different reasons, but you could argue that most people use it, to a degree, to construct and showcase identity. The Greens pulled a great trick with their Facebook event ‘National Vote Green Party Day (UK)’, which enabled would-be supporters to broadcast their intentions early on. Using the opposition to Residential Parking Zone (RPZ) charges, Lib Dem incumbent Stephen Williams was able to get heightened visibility on Twitter, and with most candidates creating great, shareable visual content, he was able to spread his messages more effectively than he might have done through traditional media. Using this tactic in the days leading up to and after the election has maintained the momentum of citizen engagement in Bristol.
Ask for a helping hand, but make it easy
While using promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook is a great method for reaching larger audiences, it’s not necessarily the most effective. For example, the undecided voter will always be more inclined to listen to and be influenced by the opinions of someone they know and trust, especially if they aren’t sure of the facts themselves. Sending out suggested tweets and posts to influential supporters of a party certainly makes it easier to get the word out about a campaign, but are they reaching the people that matter? We have to ask ourselves, would we rather listen to a journalist or politician (in a time of growing media and political distrust) or a friend to help inform and influence us?
Get your hashtags #right, @candidates
If you used Twitter in the Bristol area at any point in spring2015, there were a few, rather inventive hashtags you are bound to have come across: #ThangamStyle, which started as a fun word-play on the Labour candidate’s first name and eventually gained traction; #GreenSurge, the national hashtag initiated by the Green campaign HQ; and #BristolGreenMP. The latter two remain active as a part of another campaign launched on the back of the election, #FairVotesNow. Will the smaller parties be able to keep it going? I’m curious to find out.
Make it personal – seek engagement, but engage back
With identity politics growing stronger, the need for the electorate to be able to relate to their candidates is increasingly important. Many local candidates are ‘normal’ people passionate about change and have a meaningful relationship with their constituency and electorate, so why not showcase it? Relatable candidates like those in Bristol West saw one party’s share of votes grow by over 20%,arguably because of its willingness to engage with voters on a day-to-day basis, both inside and outside the election campaign period.
Politicians already in Parliament and those aspiring to be could take great lessons from what is happening in Bristol. Social media is not static and it will change. But with a digitally literate young population, who will only grow in terms of financial and political power over the coming years, staying on top of digital trends could prove crucial to any campaign.
This week, Grayling teams from across the network were out in force to support the 4th Big Beach Clean-up. The annual event by M&S (cl) and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) sees thousands of employees and volunteers rolling their sleeves up and helping clean-up 145 coasts and canals across the UK.
In Bristol, we took to Weston-super-Mare and (a slightly sunnier!) Swansea Bay – and more than 170kg of litter was collected in just a few hours.
Thank you to everybody who gave up their time this week.
This week has been very exciting for the Grayling Bristol team. It was announced that Arcadia Spectacular, and its world-famous spider, has submitted plans to undertake a ground-breaking performance in Queen’s Square.
It will be Arcadia’s first ever city centre event, and as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, the Spider’s signature flames will be converted to biofuel – the first recycled biofuel pyrotechnics system in the world.
The performance is called ‘Metamorphosis’ and will take place on 4/5 September.
Look out in June for the announcement of the artist line-up. We can’t wait!
Read all about the event, here: http://bit.ly/1B19Phl