When traditional press fails to make an impact, has the power of persuasion switched from print to social media?
Traditional press failed to make an impact as demonstrated by the almost zero effect of tabloid smears in the recent general election, so where has the balance of power over public persuasion shifted? Facebook may hold the answer.
The most recent UK General election is over and, unless you’re still sleeping after staying up to see the sun rise on a new political landscape you’ve probably already noticed a notification from Facebook inviting you to discover who represents your constituency after the election.
This ‘Civic Checkup’ will ask you to enter your postcode in order to update you about the new Prime Minister, your local representatives across the major parties and then allow you to follow their Facebook accounts and add new topics to your newsfeed based on which political issue you wish to follow.
Cute new features aside, the role of Facebook in voter persuasion has been more prominent than in any previous election. But why?
In this current “fake news” culture, our perceptions as to trusted sources of information are beginning to change. We are more aware than ever before of which political parties have sway over the corporations behind the tabloid presses and are beginning to call out media bias, read beyond clickbait headlines and check the sources of images and the context of quotations.
However you feel about the election result, the mainstream UK press no longer has the power to control the population and to dictate the national agenda in the same way it previously has. It turns out not even the heavy influence of Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch can compete with the almighty power that is Facebook.
Thanks to big data firms like Cambridge Analytica and Deep Index, the political parties have access to incredible mines of information on their constituents. Location, age, gender, sexual orientation, income levels, online purchases, search histories, types of devices used, times of day online, topics of discussion; almost nothing is sacred any more when it comes to fighting for your political vote.
Micro targeting allows them to post dark ads to the right people (check out who targets me to see where you fit in or update your ad preferences) on Facebook and construct their messages around which issues might be relevant to influence their vote.
But does Facebook really make a difference?
In a word, yes. Despite only half the UK electorate being active users, Facebook is the primary digital advertising platform for both the Conservatives and Labour. In the 2015 general election the Conservatives spent £1.2m on Facebook advertising, nearly 10 times what Labour spent and the results were clear. For this election the Labour party planned to spend £1m on Facebook adverts and achieved a phenomenal result in the polls.
Who Targets Me? and the British Institute of Journalism identified at least 1,036 unique political adverts issued by the Liberal Democrats, 314 by the Conservatives and 241 by Labour in a sample of more than 10,000 Facebook users
What does the future hold?
Will FB fall foul of the same curse as the tabloids as people become smarter, more adept at seeing through social media ads and making more independent choices or will this targeted approach continue to be effective?
Lianne Marie is a Shared Media specialist here at InFusion. Despite having had been up all night watching the election she’s still excited to investigate the latest social trends.