With the 2015 election campaign drawing to a close and the votes counted, it is clear that social media is playing a bigger role than ever in the coverage of politics in the UK, and that it presents politicians with the opportunity to engage voters who otherwise might be turned off.
The trends point to a clear disengagement in politics. At the 2010 election, turnout was 65.1 per cent, and among young people there is less inclination to vote. The Essex Continuous Monitoring Survey from the University of Essex showed that just 45 per cent of 18 to 25-year-old voters said they would be certain to vote in 2015, compared to 81 per cent of those aged over 65. Young people are tuning out of politics and government, but at the same time they are engaged more and more with social media, so there is an incentive for politicians to bring their message to social media platforms.
Custom news feeds can be created by political parties – or the government – to keep people up to date with the latest developments in legislation and how they directly impact on voters. Content has to be compelling, of course, so there is no point in providers creating stuffy content unappealing to social media users. Let’s face it, a student is unlikely to have time to watch a lengthy video about NHS reform or whether the UK should be in or out of the EU, but they are more likely to take the time to read or watch something about tuition fees or the cost of going to college and what can be done to make it less expensive. Target marketing applies across social media, no matter what the topic is, and with politics it is no different.
Engaging voters on social media means that the interactions are visible to everyone, so if the mainstream media starts to pick up on it, then politicians are getting the message out that they are genuine in seeking engagement with voters. That engagement has to be genuine because experienced online marketers will say that pumping out messages is a sure-fire way to turn people off. Building a relationship, using compelling content, is the key.