Updated: Jan 15, 2019
As easy as it is to assume, “likes” on social media pages or posts do not equal votes and certainly do not guarantee victory.
In fact, there is very little correlation between social media popularity and political victory, a statement and theory recently tested and analyzed by Trilogy Interactive, a San Francisco-based online consultancy firm. Despite their findings, as well as many others, I keep wondering why vanity metrics continue to be a constant focus?
There is no doubt that social media is an important part of a campaign’s toolkit. There are more than 19 million Facebook users in Canada and 14 million of us check our newsfeed every day. That doesn’t even include the people who use other platforms daily such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Reddit. (Source)
With all those eyeballs, the race to create content is a never-ending battle. An often-cited measurement of success is the amount of likes and shares a post gets. These are also known as vanity metrics. Too many times I hear a post is a failure or didn’t ‘perform’ well if it isn’t covered with likes.
Some quick background so you know where I’m headed with this: social media is designed at its core to show you content you want to see. You are tracked and analyzed by algorithms that develop a perception of who you are in order show you content it thinks you want to interact with.
Why do social media sites do this? Well – because you are worth money to advertisers who want to target and sell you products, services or candidates. These algorithms place you in a ‘social media bubble’ that you may or may not be aware of. If you want to see how narrow your bubble is, ask to see someone else’s Facebook or Instagram newsfeed. Look at the ads, the content that appears and how headlines are worded. Their newsfeed will likely feel alien to you.
Hopefully you are starting to see the picture I am painting of why likes do not always matter during a campaign. Your likes often come from the content bubbles of your most loyal supporters. They are active and engaged and like to see what you post - they agree with it! However, these are not the only people you need to show up to the polls to secure a political victory.
Campaigns are almost always won and lost in Canada by swing voters. Those campaigns that do a poor job of communicating with these voters are often relegated to opposition. This is why using likes as a measurement is a weak indicator of success. You are just feeding into your own base and not necessarily speaking to those who are on the fence. You need to consider if the messages to your base are the right messages for a swing voter. What might get your base excited, may turn off a potential supporter.
Your social media strategy should focus on moving a voter from awareness of your campaign’s platform and candidate to consideration for voting for you to finally a supporter and voter. Every single person is in a different stage of this journey at any given time; your strategy and creative execution must be flexible enough to influence people throughout a campaign.
Metrics that are of most concern to you should be website click thru rates, signup conversation rates, average video watch-length, time spent on site, specific demographic penetration and more. Someone liking your post might make you feel great, but that doesn’t mean you are a lock for a political victory.
A fulsome social media strategy that uses the full suite of available metrics, identifies your base support, moves swing voters your way and ultimately motivates a broader group to vote your way – will give you a lot to like after the polls close!