Last week the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand hit 100,000 likes on their Facebook page, becoming the first New Zealand political party to do so. The New Zealand iteration of the Green Party movement have always been overachievers online, especially relative to their international cousins and I've always considered them to be the pace setters in terms of what's worked for political social media in New Zealand whether it's from a visual design perspective, or how they've translated political communication strategy to their social media channels.
There's a few reasons for this - and it's not because their graphic designers appear to be hooked on sepia filters. The first is that due to their co-leader system, the Greens invest heavily in promoting the Green Party brand rather than the individual brand of their leaders as is the case for National, New Zealand First and - up until this year - Labour. It makes sense from the perspective that they don't want either of their co-leaders to be more dominant than the other in terms of their public profile, so by focusing on the Green Party brand itself, they avoid that awkward situation. (James Shaw's 9,400 page likes compares favourably to Meteria Turei's nearly 15,000 given he's been co-leader for a much shorter period of time).
Along with investing heavily in the Green Party Brand, the Greens have a pretty easy set of values and messaging to put in front of people - protecting our natural environment, saving endangered species, fighting climate change - they're all remarkably easy ideas to sell people. Supported by visuals like picturesque scenery or cute animals, it appeals to people on an emotional level and to their credit the Greens have leveraged this side of their brand remarkably well with emotional calls to action supported by compelling creative work.
Whether you agree or not with the methods the Greens advocate for achieving their policy goals in these areas, it's hard to not agree that protecting out environment, saving endangered species, and fighting climate change are all good ideas and important things for New Zealand to focus on.
It should come as little surprise that week in, week out, the Greens have some of the most engaged with content both in terms of raw numbers of likes, comments, and shares, but also relative to the size of their Facebook page likes. This is also all without looking at Twitter where that channel's audience is almost custom made for the Greens to thrive.
Interspaced with their messaging around social justice issues such has poverty, homelessness, and supporting low-income families, the Greens have a very strong and compelling online brand that's well suited to online activism. As to the degree that this online success translates to polling day success is up for discussion. The Greens have certainly realised that as good as their online game is, their ground game needed to be stepped up significantly, and they've publicly committed to doing just that this year, including door knocking four times as many people as they did in 2014.
That aside, it's worth comparing how the Greens compare on Facebook relative to their international cousins, and its here that they really shine. Using one of Facebook's backend tools I've looked at how many people have an interest in their domestic Green Party each month versus how many people use Facebook on a monthly basis in that country.
As you can see, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand really does outperform its overseas equivalents with 5% of New Zealand's monthly Facebook users having an interest (that is engaging with) their page or content. There is, undoubtedly, an element of supporter de-centralisation away from the nationwide brand in Australia, Germany, and the United States - where the federal Green brand has to compete with more locally focused state-based Green brands. While in the United Kingdom the Green Party brand is divided along national lines. Even taking that into account, I really feel that the New Zealand Greens can be very proud of what they've achieved online.
As I alluded to before, how this will translate into votes come 23 September is harder to predict. The traditional thinking is that while people love to say they'll party vote Greens to polling companies as it's generally considered a nice, warm brand that people don't have strong feelings for or against, when they walk into the polling both that mentality changes and away from the judgement of others, they revert to voting for a different party.