As soon as Theresa May announced a snap general election two weeks ago, political parties immediately submerged themselves in their campaigning activities, trying to make the most out of the short period available before electors cast their votes on 8 June.
Social media reaction to the announcement surged immediately, with #GeneralElection and #GE17 dominating trending topics on Twitter and Facebook, and a few stories making the headlines in the new circle of “social-traditional-social". BBC reporter Jon Kay was interviewing residents in Bristol to gauge their reactions, when he shot the video of a retired woman, the now infamous Brenda, quipping "Not another one?!" and sharing her view on the vote.
In a few hours the video went viral, with the hashtag #Brenda trending on social media in the following days and the original tweet reaching almost 17,000 retweets and likes.
"NOT ANOTHER ONE!"
— Jon Kay (@jonkay01) April 18, 2017
After Donald Trump’s controversial reliance on Twitter in the run up to the US election last year, and France’s concern following Oxford University latest research, which found that up to a quarter of the political links shared on Twitter before the first round were based on misinformation, it appears that once again digital media will a critical component to predict the outcome of this election.
Research finds 25% French election news on Twitter is robot propaganda, 30k similar Facebook accounts deleted https://t.co/VJ5VdUhmMn
— David Galbraith (@daveg) April 23, 2017
"It’s all about the race to get to the voters and the quickest way of getting to them will be through digital channels”, reports Bloomberg citing Giles Kenningham, who ran the Conservative media campaign during the 2015 election. Similarly, Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s joint national elections coordinator, told the Guardian, "This is probably the first election where social media will have a significant impact".
— Sarah Lesniewski (@sarahlesniewski) April 22, 2017
What is already drawing attention is the different role social media is acquiring in the public affairs landscape, shifting from being one of many tools, to being "the" tool politicians and parties want to focus onto promote their campaigns. Voters are now proactively looking to engage with parties and candidates, and social media offers them the best opportunity to reach politicians directly, as their timelines transform from closed bubbles of like-minded people to interactive political discussions.
This week Labour’s campaign chief announced the launch of Promote, a new social media tool the party is using to study its voter database and reach the public with tailored messages through their social media channels.
The party aims to follow Sadiq Khan’s social media campaign in London, which proved successful thanks to the high-level of engagement with voters and its continuity even during his mandate. While Jeremy Corbyn’s proactive use of Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat is proving successful according to ImpactSocial latest research, Theresa May and the Conservative party are gaining momentum on social media.
In these upcoming weeks before the vote we will be analysing major topics of discussion surrounding the elections on social media. If you are interested in receiving our General Election Weekly Summary get in touch.
*as of 26 April 2017