The Beckett Report and Social Media
The Beckett report official release today showed us why Labour failed to win the 2015 general election, it was for a multitude of reasons, of which each deserve academic insight. In this quick post, I want to discuss (In less detail than is required, by my own admission) how social media is discussed in the Beckett Report, and how this, or should, change our perception of the use of social media by Labour.
Keeping issues in the public eye
The report makes a very valid point, that on issues where Labour was effective against the coalition, Labour did not sustain the coverage it required to effectively keep an issue in the public eye long enough to ‘worry’ the government enough to change their policy on particular issues.
‘Even where Labour was highly effective in opposition, say on energy prices, or on health, this rarely attracted the sustained coverage it merited.’
Could social media be the effective answer for this? I’d argue no. Social media has been excellent in the past for grassroots movements, student protests, and other protests not brought up by a macro-level institution. However, I cannot recollect any anti-Conservative hashtag that lasted long enough to initiate change. The longest in recent times has been about the Prime Minister and a Pig. Talking about Piggate wasn’t policy Scrutiny it was an attempt at character assassination. In sum, campaigns on social media do not stay on people’s social awareness streams, (your social media front pages) for long enough to make any impact on Scrutiny.
The issue on the reliance of Social media in a nutshell: Issues remain seldom in social media awareness streams for lone.
Labour needs to include a better social media policy that better understands how social media works. This includes financial advertising. During the election, the Conservatives successfully deployed Programmatic, Facebook, Twitter, and other online paid for advertising. Because if Labour wants an issue to remain on the publics social media minds longer than the 6 hours most issues raise to trending and then obscurity, it will have to ensure posts remain visible, and that means money.
However the option for digital advertising remains unlikely. As mentioned in the Beckett report, the Conservatives outspent Labour on a radio of 3-to-1. As such, It seems Labour cannot match the money put in digital advertising by their opponents. There are alternatives. A Labour ‘50cent gang’ would be on the borders of stifling legitimate online political debate, and the abuse shown to some via the directed social media campaigns of Momentum activists online demonstrates that such a crowd online are not homogeneous enough, nor cannot be trusted to be effective ‘brand advocates’.
Early selection of candidates (and the creation of candidate’s social media profiles)
In the run up to the 2015 election, Labour announced early its candidate list. This was in the hopes of creating an incumbency factor. However on Social media, this appeared to be only somewhat effective. Data taken from MySociety shows that although Labour candidates on average had more Twitter followers than Conservative candidates, they still did not have more followers against the incumbent party.
This shows that, on Twitter at least, incumbents continue to get richer, in a ‘follower cascade’. In this instance, Labour need to get their candidates on-tune to proper social media outreach earlier on. To become at the least, local community champions, offline and online.
However from research I am currently conducting, it seems most local politicians are simply treating social media as an online message board, and undertaking messages of broadcast and ‘Me me me’ and not ‘you you you’.
I’m going to keep this section short and sweet, because I have a draft blog post in the making. But Labour did not, in the slightest, engage with the Milibae fandom to the level it should have done. It sounds stupid to most communication managers, but Labour had a real unicorn a support base of young non-traditional voters based upon non-political visual agreements. It’s hard to argue that the youth of today are far more visual, and feel a complete disconnect with politicians (what middle-aged politician has anything in connection with the EDM/warehouse party youth?).
Learning the Lessons
Given the nature of report, the context of social media was not a focus. But in the second paragraph of the final section on communications, Beckett does make an effort to address the traditional issues of politics on social media with ‘a comprehensive media strategy’ and ‘develop and promote the possibilities of social media for communicating with the public at large’. Encouragingly there is talk of increasing two-way channels of communication.
Concerning there is no more talk of social media from that. No Social media department. No overarching social media guidelines (insert worries of a social media whip here). No learning the lessons of successful companies Twitter and Facebook pages. In fact the report doesn’t mention any social media site by name. In the realm of politics on social media, I personally feel that Labour has a long way to go. The Beckett report, in its current was far too short to cover all the bases at under 40 pages. What I would like to see is Labour’s own social media report.