In the 10 week period between 1 January and 10 March there were over 21 million interactions (posts, comments and Likes) across the UK linked to the General Election via Facebook.
Facebook’s data showed that health was the most discussed election-related topic in 58% of UK constituencies (377 of the 650) during this period, with the economy and tax the second and third biggest topics of discussion respectively.
With the platform’s most talked about topic in 2014 the Scottish Referendum, Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s government and politics specialist for the UK, explains why social media is now a necessity for UK politicians.
How much has Facebook grown since the 2010 General Election?
One is scale of conversation. We had 500 million active users in 2010, today we are looking at 1.39 billion. In the UK that is 35 million people and over 50% of the population. We’ve got 20 million using the platform every day via their smartphones in the UK too.
Does this growth make Facebook invaluable to the main political parties?
You are in a situation where you have a microcosm of the UK connected to a single platform. At the end of the day not everyone has time to attend a surgery so politicians can speak to their constituents a lot more easily and we’ve seen a rise in long form content too, with David Cameron posting lengthy opinion posts on policy.
What content in particular have you been impressed by?
I think making content that appeals to smartphone users is key. Labour showed a 6 second video of a graph populating to show NHS waiting times, which did really well on our platform. It was sophisticated as it worked perfectly with autoplay. Nick Clegg has also been great at communicating with other pages, whether that’s Mental Health charities or others, and the Conservatives have done a lot to shed light on local issues, with MPS such as Steve Brine recording videos on road improvements.
With such a close vote expected, can Facebook push one of the main two parties over the line?
Definitely. Look, for so long politicians were in awe of the technology and that hindered their ability to speak to the people. I think 2015 is exciting as this is the year the leadership has wrapped their head around that potential and its ability to give politicians an authentic voice. Voters want a regular, honest voice, and MPs can do that on Facebook to great success.
In your role, you cover everything from political parties to local government organisations. What have you learnt in terms of what works?
The category that fascinates me in the UK is the police. Many police forces are using Facebook extraordinarily well and Staffordshire police did a study that showed more people trusted updates on Facebook than updates on radio or tv, and even a phone call. Politicians can learn a lot from that.
Young people want their leaders to have real authentic conversations with them, not to just preach.