- Reuters/Toby Melville
- The Labour Party has suffered its worst election defeat since 1935. But if you were following the campaign only on social media, you probably didn’t see it coming.
- Jeremy Corbyn’s party was dominant when it came to campaigning on the internet, making use of memes, viral Facebook posts, and sharply edited videos to catch the eye of voters.
- Corbyn’s fans were much more engaged on social media than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s, and Labour attack videos against the Conservatives garnered millions of views.
- That didn’t translate into votes though, with the Conservatives winning 364 seats to Labour’s 203.
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The Labour Party has suffered its worst election defeat since 1935, but if you were following the campaign and Thursday’s UK general election only on social media, you probably didn’t see it coming.
On basically every analytical metric, Corbyn’s Labour was streets ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Polling station: come over
Me: I can’t, it’s too cold outside
Polling station: Boris Johnson is going to sell off our NHS
— Jeremy Corbyn | Vote today ???? (@jeremycorbyn) December 10, 2019
A deep dive in the parties’ respective social-media campaigns by the analytics firm Pulsar found that during the campaign, Corbyn added significantly more followers on both Facebook and Twitter than Johnson almost every day of the campaign.
Not only did Corbyn gain more followers, but he also had a far more engaged base, with hundreds of thousands more interactions on his posts than Johnson’s, according to Pulsar’s data.
A compilation of the “pivotal video moments” of the election campaign created by the newspaper The Guardian, many of which went viral on social media, was dominated by Conservative gaffes.
This included Johnson’s now-infamous attempt to grab the phone of a reporter who showed him a picture of a sick child lying on the floor of an English hospital that had run out of beds.
Labour seized on such moments, with Momentum – a Corbyn-backing grassroots movement – mobilizing an army of activists to create slick attack videos slamming Johnson and the wider Conservative Party, many of which gained millions of views.
The video below, titled “If you’re not sure who to vote for, watch this,” got almost 9 million views on Facebook.
But these moments, while explosive on social media, do not seem to have cut through with ordinary voters.
In 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the supposedly decisive significance of social media, having just won an election in which the Conservatives again lost the online battle.
In a now-famous moment, he declared in a speech that “Britain and Twitter are not the same thing.” Four years later, he appears to have been proved right again.