Social media

Beyond the headline Facebook stats is Bill English winning?

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For all the talk of the hugely impressive rise of Jacinda Ardern, Bill English might actually be doing better than her on Facebook than we all realise. Despite Jacinda's page continuing to grow faster than Bill's, in the past fortnight there was significantly more engagement with Bill English's social media content than there was with Jacinda Ardern's. 

I've written before about how important Facebook page likes can be, especially for political pages in terms of the platform it can give them, but it's always useful to dive down to the next level of statistics to see how things are tracking. 

This is where things get interesting. If you look at the volume and type of interactions (reactions, comments, and shares) taking place for political parties and especially their leaders, it becomes clear that while Jacinda might be getting a higher rate of audience interaction on each individual post she makes, Bill is getting more audience interaction overall. And it's not by a small margin either.

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Taking a look at what's taken place on the party leaders' pages from 28 August to 10 September, Bill's page is only 14% larger than Jacinda's, but his page has received in total 62% more reactions (like, love, wow, laugh, angry, sad) than Jacinda's, there's also 54% more comments and, perhaps crucially, 75% more shares. Bill is also far more active than Jacinda on Facebook, having posted 64 times to Jacinda's 34 times - 80% more! Bill is posting around 4.6 times a day while Jacinda is only posting 2.4 times. Even looking back at the previous fortnight (from 14 to 27 August) the statistics are broadly similar.

While I'm not privy to the audience impressions either page is receiving, off the basis of this I'd wager that Bill English is reaching far more people on Facebook than Jacinda Ardern, and in the world of political communication, that's critical. You need to get your messages out in front of as many people as possible, as often as you can, and social media is custom made for that approach. I'd expect that each page should be reaching in excess of 1 million people each week - they're basically their own TV stations at this point!

It makes the fact that Jacinda Ardern hasn't tweeted for more than three weeks even more mysterious. She has nearly 86,000 followers on Twitter who, judging from my experience with Twitter, are more than likely to be a great tool to help amplify Labour's messages even more and ensure that people, especially influencers like journalists, business leaders, and bloggers, and seeing those messages on Twitter as frequently as possible. It seems so bizarre to negate a channel like this.

I'm not Twitter's greatest fan, but I can't deny that it has its uses and it seems very odd that Labour isn't maximising them to their advantage. Have they not been able to get Jacinda to share access to her account? Seems unlikely. Are they pursuing a policy where they leave Twitter in Jacinda's hands alone? Possibly, but it's clearly not working. Are they simply ignoring Twitter because they don't think it's worth the effort? If so they're neglecting a very powerful tool and community for centre-left parties.

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On the party front it's pretty much neck and neck between Labour and National in terms of the volumes and rate of interactions with their nearly identical amounts of content. What's fascinating here for me is how the bottom seems to have fallen out of interactions from the Green Party. My personal experience was that the Greens were almost always the best in attracting interaction with their content, but it's quite possible that following their leadership troubles of the past two months, and Jacinda Ardern's rise, that the bottom has truly dropped out of the party's support, which would be a great shame if that were the case.

It's also important to remember that outside of content that's publicly visible on a page's timeline, there will also be a wealth of content that solely appears in Facebook's ad slots, and can't be picked up by analytics tools.

Could this impact the outcome of the election? I think it could. It's vital to keep in mind that in an MMP environment, even a change of a couple of percentage points could be what enables a party to form a government or not. And that's really where I think social media, done well, can influence voters in a meaningful way, and done poorly, can cost you the chance to govern.

Fauxrage and why you should always be wary of claims about social media outrage

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You could be fooled into thinking that Malcolm Turnbull had just committed some heinous crime with headlines over the weekend such as "‘Irresponsible’: Why Malcolm Turnbull’s footy photo is causing a huge backlash", "Malcolm Turnbull taken to task for multi-tasking at the footy", and "Malcolm Turnbull faces huge backlash online". All for kissing his granddaughter on the head while holding a beer and watching some AFL.

The problem with those headlines though is that they simply aren't an accurate reflection of what the actual reaction was to the photo. As The Age reported, the number of offended comments at their time of publication was two out of a total of 1,600 comments. Likewise if you look at the reactions on the original post you'll see that a grand total of 49 out of 18,000 reactions are clearly negative ones (angry, wow, or sad). That represents roughly 0.27% of the reactions to that post.

So no, there simply wasn't a huge backlash. There were a small handful of very vocal people across social media who display what's called "fauxrage" - faking or overplaying the amount of outrage relative to the thing that they're claiming to be outraged about. This is, sadly, a hallmark of social media where a small number of people can have a disproportionate influence on the zeitgeist either by the volume of times they post, or simply by their perceived place. Throw in a few fauxraged political or social commentators on Monday's morning TV shows, and there, you have a story where there simply wasn't one.

I've seen this first-hand myself. Social media posts by Bill English like the spaghetti on pizza photos, the walk-run video, and the Budget Day Pie Poll all received massively positive reactions, with negative reactions making up anywhere between 1-3% of responses. Had you read some of the news stories generated as a result, and commentators opining about it, you'd of thought there was some massive backlash against them. Again, there wasn't. They were hugely successful pieces of content.

While there's many issues contributing to trust in the media reaching historic lows (in New Zealand they're just 1 percentage point above MPs) I can't help but feel that incidents like this contribute to the decline. When the central tenant of news stories claiming outrage about Malcolm Turnbull's photo don't line up with the actual evidence on the ground - publicly available stats that anyone can check in a matter of moments - it erodes, even if only very slightly, at the perceived quality and trust you place in the media organisation that placed that story.

As authors like So You've Been Publicly Shamed's Jon Ronson, or actors like Stephen Fry who famously said " 'I'm offended by that' So fucking what?" try to get at is that as a society we shouldn't be jumping on every outrage bandwagon that comes along. Yes, there are situations where outrage is justified and necessary in order to motivate societal change. But those situations are not served when media organisations attempt to an impression of mass outrage where clearly none of any substance of volume exists.

Talking about the impact of social media on the election with Breakfast's Jack Tame

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I was invited onto TVNZ's Breakfast this week to talk with Jack Tame about the importance of social media for politicians and political parties in the 2017 election campaign, and of course spaghetti on pizza and walk-runs. You can catch the full clip here.

You only have to look at the quantity of content and the investment of time, effort, and money that political parties are putting into social media this election to appreciate just how important they view it to their success. While it has to integrate seamlessly with the rest of their campaigns, social media is very much taking a starring role.

If you're ever in need of some professional insight and commentary on social media and the world of politics, I'm more than happy to provide an expert opinion. So feel free to drop me an email at info@libertas.digital

Backing Bill rallies against Jacindamania

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Taking a quick look at the headline Facebook statistics for this week it looks like Bill English might have gotten some of his groove back. While Jacinda Ardern is still trucking along at roughly the same clip as she was the previous week in terms of Facebook growth, Whereas last week the growth gap between the two was approximately 3,200, this week it's halved to about 1,550.

Looking back through Bill English's Facebook page last week, I can't see anything that particularly stood out in terms of performance, though my guess is that he benefitted from the relatively positive economic outlook in the PREFU. There were a few good posts, like his Facebook live and a couple of other out and about posts, but nothing that I'd describe as a runaway success. Though I think Bill did miss a trick when visiting Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Wellington not to ram home the point that under Labour's proposed international student crackdown, Le Cordon Bleu would cease to exist as upwards of 90% of its students are overseas students who wouldn't qualify under Labour's policy.

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Looking at the raw numbers you can see that while Jacinda is closing the gap on Bill English, with four weeks to go he likely has a big enough of a lead, and enough fan growth of his own to maintain a lead. That is unless Jacinda has an absolutely blinder in the debates. It's also worth noting that while not registering the thousands of new page likes that Jacinda or Bill are managing, David Seymour is doing very well over the longer term, which I believe was driven by his attacks on Meteria Turei earlier this month.

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The party page side of things paints a much different picture. Labour's growth lead over National only shrunk slightly to around 2,000 likes (versus 2,200 for the previous week), and The "We don't want to do political advertising" Opportunities Party continues to binge, ironically, on Facebook advertising to drive their growth as demonstrated it the table below.

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National's growth did double week on week, and like Bill English's seemed to peak over the middle of the week. National did manage a few very good posts about the positive economic growth prospects, very much playing to their base, mid-week which appear to have driven their success. As is often put, any day talking about the economy is a good day for National and this definitely seems to be the case last week with the PREFU.

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Looking at interaction rates per post, nothing much has changed in terms of the leaders or parties relative to each other, rather the rates have edged back from the previous week as the campaign entered into a bit of a phoney war period prior to this sprint in the final four weeks.

The most important graphs you'll see today

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As of 20 August 2017 the Labour Party overtook the National Party in terms of Facebook likes, a position they hadn't been in since 22 September 2014. At it's height, the gap between the two parties was around 18,000 page likes, as at the time of writing Labour is now approximately 400 likes ahead. Having been 200 ahead overnight.

National has enjoyed two significant boosts in the past year, in September of 2016 and from December through to January 2017 following Sir John Key's resignation and Bill English becoming leader and Prime Minister.

Labour's two boosts are from Parliamentary paid advertising just before the three month Regulated Period kicked in, and then from Jacinda Ardern becoming Labour leader at the start of this month.

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When you look at party leaders over a similar period (unfortunately my analytics tool can only pull data from September 2015 for most of them) you can clearly see the moments Bill English became Prime Minister and Jacinda Ardern became leader of the Labour Party.

Jacinda's rate of growth is now trailing off from the initial boost she received, but she's still growing by about 3,200 page likes more than Bill English each week. Assuming the rate of growth over the past week is more indicative of the campaign period itself, Jacinda will be just shy of 100,000 page likes by the election, while Bill will be around 107,000. Looking back at 2014's data, neither John Key or David Cunliffe seemed to enjoy a bounce from debates, but then again those debates didn't set the world alight, so a clear debate win for Jacinda could make a big difference for her.

As I've mentioned before, Facebook page likes aren't going to win you an election, but insofar that the more you have, the more people you can reach, and the morale boosting effect of knowing you are more popular than your opposition will have some impact on how you perform.

If you're curious where we sourced our data and graphs from from check out Quintly. It's an easy to use social media analytics tool that takes a lot of the hassle out of visualising your social media data.

Mobilise - The end game of getting out the votes

At the time of writing we're five weeks away from the start of advance voting and four weeks from overseas voting, so it's a timely opportunity to look at the end game of political campaign communications - mobilising your supporters and voters to turn up and cast their ballots for you. In political circles this is known as GOTV - Get out the vote.

Mobilise communications fall into two specific activities. The first is Enrolment. As a political campaign you want to make sure your supporters are correctly enrolled to vote, so there's a huge premium on political parties to push this. Given voter behaviour and demographics are the way they are, this has traditionally been less of a concern for right-wing political parties whose voter demographics tend to skew towards older New Zealanders who are more sedentary in their lifestyles so their enrolment details are usually up to date. Left-wing parties, whose voter demographics tend the other way towards younger, more geographically mobile people, thus have more of a challenge on their hands.

This is why over the past couple of election cycles we've seen differing efforts in New Zealand to mobilise these voters. While there's debate over the political leanings of some of these efforts, groups like Rock Enrol or FFS Vote (For Future's Sake) are examples of third-party attempts to mobilise voters.

The parties themselves take slightly different approaches. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, for example, put a significant amount of effort in trying to engage overseas voters, as is evidenced by their having an "international candidate" whose job is to secure votes from the Kiwi diaspora around the world. Likewise, Labour is showing signs of trying to engage Kiwis living in Australia with a recent Facebook event calling for volunteers in Melbourne.

If this was 2014 you'd see this activity quite visibly ramp up, but 2017 might be a somewhat different beast. With improvements in social media and online ad targeting since 2014, the majority of the Mobilise content that's going to be produced from an online perspective is going to be below-the-line advertising.

The rationale for this is pretty simple and somewhat cynical. Political parties only want to mobilise their own supporters to vote, so the more you can focus your GOTV activities to focus on your core supporters, the better off in theory you'll be. What all the parties will be doing at the moment is figuring out exactly who they need to talk to in those final three weeks of the campaign in order to mobilise them as voters.

To achieve this from a social media perspective they'll look at all the voter data they've collected via the previous two phases of communication - Persuade and Participate - and match that up with online advertising tools. Whether it's plugging carefully curated email lists into Facebook's ad tool, selectively buying Google AdWords, or targeted advertisements on major news sites, you can generally assume that if you see an ad from any of the major political parties (National, Labour, the Greens and NZ First), you're seeing it because you match some type of demographic, behavioural, or geographic filter that suggests you might vote for them.

While the advertising tools on social media here aren't as detailed as are available in the United States and United Kingdom, they're still detailed enough when partnered with your own data to allow campaigners to be pretty confident they're talking to the right people. It won't always be perfect, for instance I've found Facebook's geographic filters here aren't particularly accurate, but it's much more cost effective at reaching a far greater number of people.

If you doubt the importance of this, you only need to look at the U.S. election. Donald Trump not only campaigned more in key battleground rust belt states, but ultimately was able to mobilise a greater number of supporters to vote than Hillary Clinton, enabling him to benefit from the quirks of the electoral college.

The social media challenge of changing a leader

Happier days, from Labour's Facebook page.

Happier days, from Labour's Facebook page.

If, as half of the Press Gallery is predicting, Labour has a new leader by the end of their caucus meeting today, replacing their campaign billboards featuring Andrew Little won't be their only challenge. A change of leadership can have significant impact on your digital channels, so today I'm sparing a thought for Labour's digital team who may have a pretty massive day of work ahead of them. I should know, I've been there with the change from Sir John Key to Bill English.

Assuming there is a change, and depending who that new leader is, Labour might actually find it as a blessing in disguise on their social media channels. With Jacinda Ardern being the leading contender at the moment, despite her Shermanesque denials, she presents an unusual opportunity for Labour in that she already has a far larger following than Andrew Little is on social media.

On Facebook Jacinda leads Andrew by 58,335 page likes to Little's 33,909. The difference is even more pronounced on Twitter with Jacinda having 67,636 to Andrew's 14,087. Other than helping Jacinda reach more people without spending money on digital advertising, it also reflects something far more important - Jacinda is simply much more popular a public figure with New Zealand than her current leader. In an MMP system, where so much of the party vote component is driven by the popularity of your party's leader, this is potentially a game changer for Labour.

At the very least it's the circuit breaker that the party so badly needs. As much as National might try to portray Jacinda as a lightweight on policy, I don't think that she is. Rather, she's been more focused on the values and identity messaging that resonates with Middle New Zealand. As a result, she's built up a very successful personal brand which gets her a foot in the door with voters who will actually give her a chance and listen to what she has to say. In politics, especially in opposition, getting people's attention is half of the battle and it's something that Andrew Little has fundamentally struggled with during his tenure.

What I imagine Labour's digital team will be doing right now is working on two possibilities. One is that Andrew Little remains and they spend the next day or two trying to play up the unity in their team and how they're getting back to being focused on their key election issues. The other is that a new leader is appointed and that things need to change online.

The process they'll go through for a leadership change will look something like this:

  1. Audit all your online channels, identify what needs to change and in what order.
  2. Identify who the possible new leader might be and get content ready to go as soon as any announcement is made. What this will most likely be is a static graphic for their social media channels congratulating the new leader, or if they're really game they'll try to Facebook Live the new leader's first media stand up, though given Facebook Live can be a tricky beast at time with poor mobile signals in the depths of Parliament, and dubious Wi-Fi bandwidth, this can often be very hazardous.
  3. Switch off any digital advertising just before caucus to avoid any awkward situations of the old leader being served up in ads.
  4. Once the new leader is announced and the graphic/Facebook Live is posted, they'll have bought themselves an hour or two to make key changes. These include updating the social media profiles of the former and new leader to reflect the change, updating websites, and getting a lightning quick new digital ad campaign sorted to promote the new leader.
  5. They'll also need to talk to the new leader or their staff to get access to their social media profiles so that they can start posting content on behalf of them.
  6. Later today and tomorrow they'll then need to review their existing digital strategy and identify opportunities to change it based on the new leader.
  7. Throughout the rest of the week they'll work through progressively updating lower level online content to reflect the change. Nobody expects them to change everything on the first day, but by the end of this week would seem reasonable.

All of this is happening very quickly, especially when, unlike the leadership change for the National Party in December where the leadership contenders were identified early and, by the weekend before the caucus meeting, there was only one contender for the top job. The lead in time back then made it so much easier to identify what needed to change, get content ready for multiple eventualities, and agree a plan of action to make the change happen.

Labour's challenge is that they've had all of 48 hours notice, it's not 100 per cent clear who a new leader might be - though Jacinda is top of the list right now - and unlike National in December, their leader hasn't resigned so they have to be very careful about working on any content for a replacement as not to rock the boat or torpedo morale.

I honestly don't envy what they're going through. It's a hugely tough time. It was busy enough for me with a three week old baby at home leaving me sleep deprived. In the white hot heat of an election campaign, when things are already not going well for your party, I do feel for them and wish them all the best for the next few days.

Persuade, Participate, Mobilise - the three phases of political communications

While digital channels may have revolutionised the delivery and ability to engage with political communications, the primary driving purposes of those communications hasn't. They're either trying to persuade you to vote for something, get you to participate in helping promote that cause, and ultimately mobilise you into voting come election day.

For the next few blogs I'm going to drill down into each of these phases and how we're seeing them play out in the digital space, particularly looking at how social media, email, and data are used in their delivery. But for today, I'm going to focus on defining these categories what specific type of messaging falls into them.

Persuade is all about getting the message out about why someone should vote for you. In a New Zealand context with our short election cycle, Persuade content never really stops being produced, but it kicks into overdrive about a year out from each election. It's where the parties settle on the value proposition they're going to put to voters, develop and release their policy platforms, and attack the values and policies of other parties. This is the bread and butter stuff in the digital space, with social media graphics and videos, websites, email campaigns, needing to produce bucket loads of content to support it.

Participate is turning that support for your values and policies into donations, memberships, and volunteers come campaign time. This is why parties are so eager to get you to sign your name, email address, and other contact details to issues and petitions. Once they have those details in their database, you've taken the first step in a process designed to convert you from a potential voter into an active party member who volunteers - think Labour's very successful Baby Number campaign. While this does take place throughout the election cycle, unlike Persuade content the real guts of this happens in the months leading up to the start of the campaign, as well as during the first few weeks of the campaign. The obvious reason being that you not only need money to run a campaign, but also volunteers to door knock, make phone calls, deliver flyers, erect and wave hoardings, and generally populate your ground game.

Mobilise is the get out the vote component of political communications. Whereas in the past this took the form of activities on polling day itself, such as door knocking and offering supporters lifts to the polling station, advance voting has meant that you're now looking at a two to three week period where this will be much more intense. In fact, if you look back at each election since 2002 when advance voting was introduced, National has performed better in the advance voting period than it has overall, illustrating the real importance that this aspect of the Mobilise phase of communications has taken on.

As I mentioned before, in the next few blog entries I'll drill down into each of Persuade, Participate, and Mobilise, as well as look at how digital channels and social media in particular have impacted them.

The Greens - NZ's social media overachievers

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.

The social media political revolution wasn't televised - you missed it back in 2014

A recurring theme I see in commentary on the 2017 New Zealand election is how this year will be known as the "social media campaign". It really isn't. 2014 was the campaign that social media revolutionised, what'd you think all those kids were doing with those selfies with John Key? They were posting them to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while at the same time being served up with a barrage of specially designed, targeted content from all of the major campaigns, political leaders, and third party campaigns.

I think part of the reason for this is that our traditional media companies themselves still don't quite get social media. Reading or watching much of their use and commentary on social media it's often dismissively served up as some sort of light entertainment medium that only millennials care about (the Paul Henry and AM Show's use of it's social media bunker is a good example of this), or as something that should have the country on the verge of a moral panic* (Stuff's recent "The Takeover: How Facebook is everywhere" was a good example of this).

The reality is that political social media is fundamentally the same as it was when it made such a big impact for Barack Obama first in the 2008 election, an approach that was ruthlessly refined by the 2012 U.S. elections. It's useful to sometimes think of political campaigns as an arms race - where each side continually looks for an edge over its rivals in terms of both getting its message to its audience, but then also converting that audience to voters. The development of this arms race from a data perspective is nicely documented up to 2012 in Sasha Issenberg's "The Victory Lab: The secret science of winning campaigns".

Essentially, Issenberg argues that George W Bush's team in 2000 and 2004 came up with a much better targeting model and method getting their messages out and converting voters to their side. In 2008 it was the Democrats and Obama's team, in large part thanks to a lot of earlier leg work by Howard Dean, who first clued onto the immense power of the web, email, and social media, to create two amazing campaigns from a content perspective, but underpinned by one of the best and most in-depth data operations ever seen. Dan Balz's "Collision 2012: The Future of Election Politics in a Divided America" picks up where Issenberg's work leaves off and provides a good platform for understanding how Obama's campaign leveraged social media to devastating effect against Mitt Romney and the GOP.

Which brings us to 2014 where National, Labour, the Greens, and Internet Mana all had significant social media and digital operations. It was just that traditional media was geared so heavily towards following the traditional on-the-ground elements of campaigning - campaign launches, policy announcements, debates and the like - that they simply didn't notice the importance or volume or work going on in the digital space.

The social media revolution happened to our political campaigns back in 2014, and it went entirely unnoticed except by those who were at the coalface of those functions. The tools and methods have been continuously refined since then, but the game- changing moment happened three years ago.

Without going into specifics, the numbers of unique New Zealanders who would have seen a piece of social media content from either John Key or the National Party on a weekly basis during that campaign were such that it was a massively more cost effective channel to reach a greater audience than other mediums could ever hope to deliver, and it had the added bonus of being an amazingly easy platform for people to engage with content in a way that traditional communication channels - face-to-face, TV, newspaper, radio, or physical mail/leaflets - simply couldn't (and still can't) match.

The political social media revolution well and truly happened back in 2014. The only difference between 2014 and 2017 is that traditional media companies have finally realised what people like Matthew Beveridge had already clicked onto in 2014 - that social media is a game-changer for the scale and nature of political campaigns in much the same way that radio, direct mail, and television have been in the past.


*Further to this point about inciting a moral panic about social media - the reaction to social media by traditional media across the world parallels, in many respects, the backlash to all new methods of mass communication as they're appeared by the previously dominant sources of information. Pamphleteers were routinely censored and harassed throughout Renaissance Europe, newspapers heavily controlled by governments in their early days.

More recently serial novelisations, when they first appeared in the 19th century, had established book publishers lashing out at these new shorter forms of writing with their appeal to the working class who were rapidly becoming more literate. Charles Dickens was one of those serial novelists who was slammed by the established content producers of the day for his work - especially its moral character, the social themes addressed in it, and its mass appeal - but is now considered to be one of our greatest literary figures.

There was a similar reaction from newspapers when radio stations first became commonplace, with many forbidding radio stations from reading their newspaper stories on air until after the physical papers had been delivered. Radio stations responded by employing their own news departments. The reaction to cinema and television in particular was similar too, with established players seeing the new technology as a threat to not only their own survival, but common decency.