Money can’t buy you love, or votes

By July 10, 2016Social Media

Malcolm Turnbull remains Prime Minister after scraping over the line in the recent Federal Election. There’s already been plenty of analysis written as to why there was an unexpected swing against the conservative side of politics this election, but one reason that really stood out to me is the difference between the two major parties in their use of media technology, specifically social media.

GetUp! played a pretty large part in the swing against the Coalition. Over 40,000 members of GetUp! made 17,471 hours of phone calls to targeted electorates. According the The Saturday Paper, this was the biggest and best-run campaign run by an organisation not directly affiliated with a party.

So how did GetUp! achieve such numbers? Well money does help and it’s important to recognise this. GetUp! crowdfunded $3 million to help fund their campaign. But it wasn’t just billboards and media space GetUp! spent their money on, they also set up technology allowing volunteers to make phone calls from 6 seperate locations across Australia, as well as in their own homes.

But even with millions in donations funding advertising purchases and fancy call centres, one can argue what made the biggest impact didn’t require that kind of money. Social media continues to play a large part in the outcome of elections, and this election was no exception.

GetUp! has around 25% more likes than either of the major parties on Facebook, and that counts for something. Andrea Carson, lecturer in media and politics at the University of Melbourne told The Saturday Paper, “They {Getup!} have used Facebook really well, developing detailed databases of who their supporters are, so when they approach you, they already know quite a lot about you. They’ve used Facebook to help themselves become very good at strategic messaging, targeting particular electorates”.

What GetUp! has done through social media is a good lesson for all. Their relentless approach of experimenting with their message, seeing what works and then refining what doesn’t has paid dividends. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 62.5% of all Australian have a Facebook account, and almost 3 million Australians have an account with Twitter. Getting your message right on social media doesn’t just have big impacts on the success of your campaign, it’s also cost effective.

Bigger results on a cheaper budget? No wonder the Liberal Party struggled to combat GetUp! with their more traditional forms of marketing. Techniques like robocalls and direct mail just don’t have the same impact as they used to.

“Traditional media don’t have the sway they once had”, Carson said. “Robocalls is a very analogue way of communicating. In fact, research shows it actually alienates a lot of voters.”

The Unions and the ALP have also become aware of the changes in the political media landscape and the growing role of digital marketing in their campaigns. The Saturday Paper reports a fair portion of the 15,000 strong ALP volunteers were recruited via social media.

The Liberal party have hopefully (for their sake) learnt a valuable lesson in how important it is to adapt to the constantly changing digital media landscape.

While they don’t lack financial contributions from their largely business-orientated supporter base, The Liberal Party’s failure to invest time into developing detailed databases of their online supporters, has led not to just a decline in engagement with the community at large, but with their own supporters. The evidence is clear for all to see; the party’s lack of understanding of the importance of engaging with their supporters through digital media has resulted in a lack of troops on the ground, and consequently an underwhelming vote count. Talk about trickle down-economics!