Social media, UK elections and millennial marketing

British politics, and subsequent Brexit negotiations, hang in the balance. In the recent UK General Election we saw the resurrection of a more radical political agenda and galvanisation of the youth vote. Social media and digital communication played a fundamental role in the Labour party’s increased share of the vote. But why is that?

Social media is a mainstay in so many lives. Smart phones mean our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds are with us from the moment we wake, until we finally fall asleep and even through the night if we keep it by the bed.

More importantly, perhaps, it’s dead easy to think that everyone thinks like you because thousands of people all ‘like’ what you ‘like’. It’s known as the social media echo chamber. The algorithm serves up more of the same. In fact it’s dead easy to be totally brainwashed into thinking that clean eating, 100 sit-ups before breakfast, meditation and recycling an old Mason jar is normal and desirable behaviour. After all, if this is a word of mouth recommendation from someone in your group it’s worth taking note, right?

Whoever runs social media for successful brands understands just how this works. Once you have someone in your community, if you judge the mood correctly, if you offer attractive, motivational, inspirational and colourful content and have sufficient money to promote your content, the sky’s the limit. Millennials want immediate and they also want new. They know what their social media presence is worth.

The brilliant thing is that marketers and politicians can target an audience in pinpoint fashion. There’s even a tool called Promote that will identify specific people in a constituency.

The power of Millennial Marketing

You can ensure that your messages fall on sympathetic ears. If you’re into healthy baby food, fret about child care, use biodegradable nappies and worry about potential tuition fees, then Labour was going to look attractive. When you see your mates adopting banners from the same political parties and sharing news reports, videos, memes and such, the message gets subtly (and not so subtly) hammered home.

If people think on similar lines to you they will also help shape your opinion. They share the latest exposé of the other political party’s failings. They find articles that demonstrate just how ‘their’ side is being abused by ‘others’ who don’t belong in this group. It’s easy to experience a constant diet of political fodder that suits your perspective.

The potent power of all this is evident. The youth came out in force. In fact youth turnout between the ages of 18-24 was around 72%! The 18-34s are the generation who were branded too apathetic to vote in the past. This time they heard messages shaped to appeal to their ‘tell ‘em how it really is’ approach. If you market to millennials you must know they are the largest living generation. They want to be charmed not sold to and you have to attract their attention.

Millennials want information and they want it via social media. They want images that belong on Instagram. Millenials love to see themselves and user-generated videos go down a storm. They need to relate to what’s being said, promoted and sold. The Labour Party went out and communicated with them. Jeremy Corbyn mentioned youngsters as a group over and over again. Alongside that mention he used the word hope. They could relate to this brand of politics that they will have never really have experienced before.

Getting the Millennial marketing message right

There is no denying that the Conservatives and Lib Dems have failed young people over the years. With rising tuition fees, the housing crisis and talks of a hard Brexit robbing this generation of their ability to study abroad, it’s no wonder that Labour’s promises of more investment made them sit up and take notice. The traditional media’s attempts to belittle Jeremy Corbyn by criticising his dress sense or his scruffy looking beard didn’t matter. There was more at play, and they knew it.

They will have been impressed by Corbyn’s authenticity. He went out, put up a platform and let his followers do his PR. He wasn’t perfect but he was there. If you’ve ever used Snapchat you’ll know users aren’t looking for slick, heavily air brushed or Photoshopped perfection, they want authenticity.

Social platforms drive massive traffic back to publishers and brands themselves. The first 10 seconds of any content will make the difference between engagement or simply swiping past. Millennials do not hang about. If you want to reach them you need to be brief and dynamic, as they’re probably consuming you on the move.

Going out and meeting people makes all the difference. Being prepared also matters. They’ll pull you up for bullshit – they just don’t want to know. If they have questions they’ll want an instant answer. Get a move on – you have about 15 minutes to engage.

Where Theresa May fell down

What Theresa May failed to do, amongst many things, was not provide memorable experiences. She thought she had such a lead that if she kept her mouth closed and avoided any confrontation, she’d be returned to power. Where was her social identity, unless of course you followed her shoe changes? Did she appeal to Millennials’ values? The Tories ran an ineffective social media campaign full stop and this was a massive mistake. Millennials take brands to their hearts if they make a real difference. They will align themselves to those they perceive as doing good or aiming to do good in life. Like it or not, May and Corbyn are brands. Jeremy Corbyn’s Twitter account has more than three times the followers as Theresa May’s. The pro-Labour Facebook page Momentum has more than 145K people onboard. It’s obvious to see the role social media has played in this campaign.

Finally, being transparent makes a difference. This is a word that could never be ascribed to Theresa May. Her inner sanctum of advisers demonstrates how closely she keeps her cards to her chest. What good is that? If you don’t know, be honest and say you don’t know. Listen to user-generated content and act on it to bring people into your fold, your community and they’ll promote you on theirs.

Youngsters were exhorted to vote many, many times during the day of the election. There were queues outside polling stations where youngsters were the dominant voters. The effect of Corbyn’s campaigning took the media by surprise. It probably took the whole party by surprise. But for us who work in social media it was simply another day in the virtual office.

It’s obvious that social media drives results. What are the goals of your business? Don’t be left out! Contact us now and find out how we can help you get over the line.


Vivienne Neale is a digital marketer and director of VKN Digital, which is a digital marketing agency in Hertfordshire, UK. We aim to help SMEs overcome marketing hurdles and create compelling digital content that drives results. If your website needs a refresh, new content, a rebrand, some general housekeeping – or perhaps you’re looking to build a new one from scratch – please get in touch via our contact page for a free Skype consultation. We can also help with SEO, design and social media.

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