There is little doubt that the Labour party ran a successful social media campaign, their grassroots members were trending hashtags several times a week during the General Election campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn even had his own Snapchat filter. David Davis described it as “ferocious and powerful”.
There is no denying that the Conservatives missed the beat with social media, it played a role in losing whatever share of the youth vote they believed they had, and by extension, costing them the handsome majority that most pollsters had been predicting.
Labour has its strong grassroots movements, particularly ‘Momentum’, and in the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Rodham Clinton had her ‘Hillary for America’ team with a strong grassroots centre, and we are all aware of how Donald Trump used Twitter as a campaign platform. The Conservative Party needs to reconnect with its members and build an, excuse the pun, “strong and stable” grassroots movement of its own, with Twitter being a natural breeding ground for such a movement.
There were few notable social media interactions during the campaign. Theresa May took part in a Facebook Live with ITV, in which Jeremy Corbyn attempted once again to get a rise out of her for not attending the debates, but other than that, the social media presence of both the party and its leaders were lacking. Labour even promoted hashtags on Twitter, while no such new age techniques were used by the Conservatives.
Labour supporters have always been more vocal, but in an age where the majority of the population now get their news from social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the Conservatives cannot afford to fall behind the Labour Party. The Corbyn supporting grassroots movement, Momentum, which helped seal the youth vote that secured Labour a greater number of seats than predicted, has already released their plans for the next election. Amongst their aims are plans to “launch new technological platforms that make it easy to get involved with the Labour Party” and to “create more viral video content”.
The official twitter pages for Theresa May (@theresa_may and @as well as that of the party, are rarely updated and not quickly enough, with photos and statements usually appearing several hours after the fact. While targeted ads were used on sites like Facebook, organisations in support of Corbyn and the Labour party used similar techniques, numbering far higher than any of the Conservative ads.
Corbyn was rarely photographed without youth voters by his side during the election campaign, and while selfies of youth voters with the Prime Minister did appear occasionally across social media, they were minimal by comparison. Voters want a party with elected representatives and a leader that they believe are accessible; and social media is a platform that allows for this. By comparison, other UK political leaders, such as Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson, continuously use Twitter to reach out to their Scottish voters.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister visited a high school in Bristol to promote her mental health reform plan to bring mental health first aid training to all secondary schools in England by 2020. Mental health was an issue that she was praised for bringing attention to at the beginning of her tenure. This is the exact sort of policy that they should be promoting on social media, the policies that people want to hear about, that were hinted at during Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister last summer. They want to know what the Conservatives can do for them, they want a positive campaign, that shows them how politics can work for them and their families.
Ultimately in this election the Conservatives achieved the highest vote share of any party in decades; and it’s highly probable, that they would have achieved a stable majority if they had correctly tapped into social media. The party can’t afford to ignore the power of social media, and it must fight to gain an increased share of the youth vote if it wants to stand a chance of being the party of the future, for the future.