Bill English's Facebook page outperformed Jacinda Ardern's when it mattered in the final five weeks of the election, despite getting off to a slow start and not adding as many new page likes.
The reason for this is simple - more people interacted with Bill English's Facebook page content over the course of the election campaign, meaning that it's likely his page reached a significantly higher number of voters than Jacinda Ardern's did.
In a normal campaign I'd of taken my statistics from the start of the Regulated Period, as this is effectively the start of campaign season. However due to Labour's change of leadership, I decided to take statistics from 1 August, when Jacinda became Labour Party Leader, as otherwise things would be tiled hugely in Bill English and National's favour given she didn't even know she was going to be leader up until the night before.
On average across the campaign Bill English's Facebook page was 24% larger than Jacinda Ardern's. The gap started at 43% larger and edged it way down to 13% by the close of the campaign. Jacinda's page like growth shouldn't be discounted though, it's hugely impressive given she went from a standing start (and the above figures don't include the boost she got from speculation about the leadership on Monday 31 July) she definitely is the top performing page for growth during the 2017 campaign (though Bill English still holds a 7,500 lead across all of 2017.
The larger size of Bill English's page throughout the campaign accounts for about 70% of the difference between the performance, however 30% of it is purely down to the quantity of content Bill English published and how well it did.
Bill English posted 91 times more than Jacinda Ardern did from 1 August through to 22 September, a 67% difference, which proved significant given the lower interaction rate per post that I've found centre-right parties experience. With more reactions, more comments, and more shares in total, it gave Bill English more of an opportunity to reach people across the campaign period.
Across the 53 days I've covered, Bill English posted on average 4.3 times a day while Jacinda Ardern only managed 2.5 times a day. In part I suspect this reflects the divergent campaign strategies that each leader used. Bill English held multiple, smaller, and more free flowing events each day, while Jacinda Ardern favoured fewer, but larger and more orchestrated events.
As for the other leaders, there's not too much to get excited about. Winston Peters has typically done well on Facebook. Given the intense focus on Bill English vs Jacinda Ardern, and Winston's own near invisibility on the campaign trail this year, it's perhaps not surprising that he hasn't done quite as well as he might have done. Gareth Morgan benefitted from his high profile and, I'm guessing, some serious advertising dollars behind put behind his content.
David Seymour was busy, but struggled to find traction with his 221 posts - the second most behind Bill English - while James Shaw was very, very quiet. Though the Greens have typically invested more into their overall Party brand on social media than individual leaders.
Where things get interesting though is when you look at how the balance changed between the two accounts over the eight weeks.
Off the back of her elevation to the leadership, Jacinda's page wiped the floor with Bill English, which isn't surprising given the level of media coverage surrounding her at the time. Where things get interesting though is how quickly that tapered off during the campaign so that by the fourth week Bill English was doing better across all measures other than interaction rate and like growth, and it would largely remain that way for the rest of the campaign, with Bill English really shining in the second to last week as Labour came under immense pressure for its tax policy, and Steven Joyce launched his infamous fiscal hole attack.
You can see above that barring her first two weeks as leader, Jacinda would never again get more interactions on her content than Bill did. The real hammer blows in terms of Bill generating more audience reach out of these interactions would have come in weeks five, seven, and eight, where his page experienced nearly double that of Jacinda's.
The final two weeks were crucial, as they were the weeks that covered advance voting. As Kiwis went to cast advance votes in record numbers, there's a good chance that most of them would have seen content from Bill English or, as I'll demonstrate tomorrow, the National Party.
The two leaders most successful posts of the election appear to be Jacinda Ardern's visit back to Morrinsville with 1.2 million video views, and Bill English's "My story" with 305,000 video views - on the National Party page it was posted separately and received another 935,000 views there - meaning it's just edged out Jacinda's trip down memory lane as the most watched video of election 2017.
Tomorrow I'll have a look at how each of the political parties performed during the campaign.