Mark Higginson, Director of Analytics, Nielsen Online Australia
John Pabon, Analyst, NM Incite
With the ousting of Kevin Rudd on June 24th, Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister of Australia. To solidify her mandate, she called for formal elections to be held on August 21. The contest would pit her against the rival Liberal Party, under the leadership of Tony Abbott. As of an August 14 pre-election poll produced by Nielsen for the Sydney Morning Herald, Gillard continues to increase her lead. The poll cited 53 per cent of voters supporting Gillard’s Labor Party, with 47 per cent throwing their vote to Abbott’s coalition Liberal/National Party. Australia’s poll of polls confirms this with Labor leading Liberal 51 to 48 per cent, respectively.
Australian Election Buzz Spikes
When looking at the conversation surrounding the election, spikes in buzz correlate directly to major political events. These buzz spikes, however, only tell part of the story. With the race running neck-and-neck, what is driving the real conversation? What is influencing the swing of voters from one day to the next? The swing of the electorate is a result of happenings in the social media space. Where Gillard is using social media to her advantage, Abbott’s lack of social media savvy is solidifying a public image of him being out of touch with the electorate. Recent gaffs by Abbott, including what some consider misogynistic comments, are also contributing to this negative image. Below, we will examine how the candidate’s use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook is impacting their results in the polls and how clients can apply these lessons to their own use of social media.
(Note: all measurements of viewers, followers and fans taken on August 13, 2010).
Round 1: Twitter
Gillard: Gillard tweets every few hours on various subjects, including her political stance, campaign promises and donations to charity. She also uses Twitter to respond to concerns from the electorate. Gillard uses hashtags when she tweets, increasing the reach of her messages. This helps to build support and enables her to respond to public concerns in a timely manner.
Abbott: While he does have a Twitter handle, Abbott has not produced a single tweet since July 17th, the day the formal election was called. Abbott does not use hashtags in his tweets, thus limiting their overall reach.
Gillard’s use of Twitter keeps her top of mind in the conversation and allows her to quickly put out fires in real time. It also gives her a more personal linkage to the general public, who ultimately influence the election.
Round 2: YouTube
Gillard and the Labor Party: The Labor Party’s dedicated YouTube channel not only includes campaign advertisements, but also personal video with Prime Minister Gillard. One particularly popular video features her speaking from the backseat of a car while on the campaign trail. Looking directly into the camera, she highlights recent accomplishments in the realm of broadband connectivity.
Video uploads are made at least once a day.
A cartoon parody of Liberal Party leaders, set to the tune of “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”, also appears on the channel. The video received 47,065 views within four days of being uploaded.
Channel stats: 208,473 views; 1,870 subscribers; #2 most viewed YouTube site in Australia.
Abbott and the Liberal Party: The Liberal Party’s dedicated YouTube channel features only negative campaign television advertisements against Gillard and the Labor Party. New uploads to the site are rare; most are from the initial creation of the channel. Channel stats: 40,167 views; 715 subscribers; #91 most viewed YouTube site in Australia.
Other videos: The production of viral videos by the general public and political action groups is where the real action happens.
Two videos by GetUp!, an Australian political organization, receive large viewership:
The Election 2010 Spoof Trailer features politician’s heads superimposed on famous actor’s bodies. The four minute parody is done in the style of a big Hollywood action movie. (359,788 views)
Tony Abbott’s Archaic Views features women quoting some of the controversial sexist remarks made by Tony Abbott during his career. (49,035 views)
With 90,787 views, Tony Abbott: The Man Your PM Should Be, parodies the recent set of Old Spice Man commercials and lampoons Abbott’s campaign promises.
A video by Yes We Canberra!, an Australian satire program, features a Tony Abbott lookalike singing to the tune of Justin Bieber’s Baby. (30,294 views)
Gillard makes her campaign personal and timely, resulting in high viewership and popularity for her videos. The Abbott camp should seek to refute parodies from the general public, especially as such videos tarnish his image. The Liberal Party, however, lets them run wild on the Internet and grow exponentially in popularity and reach.
Round 3: Facebook
Gillard: Official Julia Gillard page has 62,938 fans. The page is updated daily and includes links to her YouTube videos and tweets. Anti-Gillard pages focus on her usurpation of power from Prime Minister Rudd, but not on the current election.
Abbott: Official Tony Abbott page has 11,471 fans. The page has not been updated since June 30th, and includes more personal family pictures than political appearances.
Links on the page to the official Liberal Party website are corrupted.
Anti-Abbott sites are far more prolific in their membership than the official Tony Abbott page:
Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote for Tony Abbott has 87,012 fans;
Can this sanitary napkin get more fans than Tony Abbott? has 10,552 fans;
Every time you vote for Tony Abbott god kills a kitten has 5,857 fans.
Gillard’s page cross-references her other usages of social media in a highly efficient manner. Her videos, comments and links are timely and support her campaign initiatives. Tony Abbott’s page is stagnant and does not focus on the campaign. The numerous anti-Abbott sites on Facebook are also problematic, especially as some are more popular than the candidate’s official page.
What, then, can clients do to ensure they use social media to their advantage during a major campaign?
Know your reputation, because everyone else will: Acknowledge your past, highlight your present plans and quickly put out fires that can easily get out of control.
Be approachable: Personalize your campaign so that the public can approach you with their concerns, instead of feeling the need to demonize you or your brand
Update, update, update!!! A stagnant website, Twitter account or social networking page shows a lack of interest and a loss of momentum. Keep posts timely, relevant and attach them to each other to increase your campaign’s popularity and reach.