General Election 2015: Will it be the tweets wot win it?

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are being used as real tools to target voters

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Indy Politics

The campaign five years ago was billed as the “first social media election”, but back then Twitter was still a relatively new platform for most of Westminster – and David Cameron wasn’t even on it. This time, the microblogging site, as well as Facebook and Instagram, are being used as real tools to target voters – particularly the undecided hordes.

While Labour dominates Twitter, the Conservatives are stronger on Facebook. Labour strategists are using Twitter to motivate and mobilise supporters, pushing messages during the TV debates, for example. Labour wants to use Facebook more – one million people saw the party’s content during last Thursday’s debate. But the Tories are vastly outspending Labour on Facebook adverts – they have spent £100,000 in one month on this.

Facebook has a broader reach because half the UK population has an account. Labour insiders say the younger profile of active users means Facebook is quite a left-wing place, so for older users it’s a case of “I’m on it but I don’t get it”. Twitter may be important for spreading news and arguments among journalists – The Daily Telegraph story about Nicola Sturgeon, when it broke on Friday evening, was debated at length on Twitter – but Labour says that its much-mocked #labourdoorstep hashtag is a useful tool to mobilise the support of volunteers and activists. But for all its usefulness, Twitter attracts the nastier side of the internet, and just because something is trending doesn’t make it matter, necessarily, in the real world.

 

Relatively few politicians and journalists are on Instagram – partly because, unlike Twitter and Facebook, it is difficult to search for users, and also it takes more effort to post a picture than to fire off 140 characters. Ed Miliband is a recent convert, getting far more polite messages there than the abuse on Twitter. For the Labour leader, whose weakness is having bad photos taken of him, it is a clever use of the medium.

LabourList claimed Labour’s Martin Freeman election broadcast has been viewed more than a million times online, compared with only 91,000 for the Tory broadcast on YouTube a day later.

In the end, TV is still the dominant medium – as evidenced by last week’s ITV debate. But for the quick and the sharp, here’s who to follow...

TWITTER

John Rentoul @JohnRentoul 45,100: Our own commentator is frequently rated the top political tweeter. A must-follow for the election.

Stephen Bush @stephenkb 6,567 followers:  Sharp and pithy analysis from  the writer for the New Statesman

General Boles @GeneralBoles 9,662: We don’t know why he hasn’t got more followers. You need his Photoshopping to get you through the campaign.

Nicola Sturgeon @NicolaSturgeon 160,000 followers: Because everyone has to follow her now.

Gloria De Piero @GloriaDePiero 28,800 followers: Most Labour politicians tweet humdrum snaps of themselves on  the #labourdoorstep, but De Piero tweets like a human.

INSTAGRAM

Ed Miliband 4,044 followers: Joined October last year. Ahead of the game on Instagram among party leaders, using it to even post old black-and-white photos of himself with Justine and their sons, to highlight paternity leave.

Nick Clegg 265 followers: Joined only in February this year. Posts a mix of informal doorstep snaps and campaign photo ops, but, sadly,  no hedgehogs yet.

Stella Creasy 491 followers: Joined February this year. Latest picture was of a Norfolk terrier, but Creasy is a trailblazer on social media, so we’re sure she’s doing  it right.

Tristram Hunt 63 followers: Joined last month. Keen on campaign shots in factories and schools, but given that the shadow Education secretary is tipped for the leadership, it’s going to get interesting.

Oliver Dowden 19 followers: Joined last month. Former No 10 adviser now Conservative candidate for Hertsmere who we’re sure will be a minister in the next Tory government.

FACEBOOK

David Cameron Nearly 500,000 Likes.  His posts are nearly  identical to his Twitter feed, where he has 958,000 followers. Not highly personal tweets. The replies are  more polite on Facebook.

Team2015 Just over 7,000 likes, far fewer than the page of its big brother, The Conservatives, but this is where Tory chairman Grant Shapps is mobilising grassroot supporters. They also have an Instagram page worth following.

Liberal Democrats More than 100,000 Likes, many  more than their Twitter page. Given the youth vote is a key Lib Dem target, they are cleverly using  witty videos and pictures.

Rachel Reeves More than 8,000 likes – comments and photos which she posts herself.

BuzzFeed UK Politics More than 24,000 likes. We dare you to say “BuzzFeed Election”.

The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as possible.

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All data, polls and graphics are courtesy of May2015.com. Click through for daily analysis, in-depth features and all the data you need. (All historical data used is provided by UK Polling Report)

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