Why social media has become an essential platform for policitians

Merinda Peppard from Hootsuite explains why the election won’t be won or lost on social, but it is an essential platform for politicians to reach a mass audience.

By no means will the election be wholly won or lost on social, but it’s an essential platform for engagement if parties are to reach a mass audience.

Jeremy Paxman’s interviews with political leaders last week demonstrates the importance of social media during the general election and it will play a pivotal role in understanding the impact of the TV debate on the election race.

Unlike polling and traditional media, social provides real-time analysis of voter sentiment so politicians know what is or isn’t resonating with the electorate and adjust their strategies accordingly. It also means the public can directly engage with key political figures, providing a more inclusive and transparent forum for political discussion.

The heavy investment political parties have placed in social advertising demonstrates the scale at which social platforms have matured since the last election, where politicians relied on driving social engagement through community pages. Social ads are a great way to communicate political policies because of their targeted nature, meaning people receive ads about policies relevant to them, something near impossible at this scale five years ago.

The evolution of social on mobile devices also means politicians can be more strategic about how and when they engage with the public. Studies have shown that we need to see or hear a message three-five times before we believe it, meaning an integrated campaign is key if campaigners want to truly influence the electorate.

A great example of this is President Obama’s campaign in 2012 where his integrated approach to social proved a significant factor in his success. Amplifying engaging content, including video and podcasts through a variety of channels, Obama effectively engaged the important “youth vote”.

His “Four more years” image set two social media records, receiving more Twitter retweets (700,000) and Facebook likes (3.5 million) than any other post in history at the time.

The UK TV debate this week is set to be a crucial moment in the election race. Social analysis will be essential in understanding both public reaction to the debate, setting one of the most accurate analysis of public opinion and sentiment towards the party leaders and their policies.

It will also be a true indicator in the success of the TV format in engaging more people in UK politics following weeks of debate around its effectiveness and importance