A Look at How Canadians’ Likes, Tweets, and Selfies Influenced the 2015 Election
The 42nd Canadian Election has come to a close, and history has been made. The Liberals have won a majority government, and their leader, Justin Trudeau, will become the country’s next Prime Minister. This campaign spanned a total of 78 days, the longest in modern Canadian history, and had some of us worried that voter interest and engagement would suffer. Now that Election Day has come and gone, it’s clear we we had nothing to worry about. With over 68% of eligible voters casting ballots, the country saw the highest voter turnout since 1993. Could this be thanks in part to social media?
At SEO TWIST we spend a lot of time helping businesses increase their brand awareness, engagement, and even their profits using social media platforms. We know firsthand that these channels are some of the most effective ways to reach and interact with your target audience, create a voice for your brand, and get your most important messages out there. Throughout the course of the election, we couldn’t help but notice these same principles coming into play. In fact, this election presented incredibly compelling evidence of the power of social media.
According to Twitter Canada, four times as many Tweets were sent about #ELXN42 (the official hashtag of this year’s election) than about #ELXN41 in 2011. The official numbers were 3,400,000+ total Twitter mentions throughout the 2015 campaign, compared to 715,000+ in 2011. 470,000+ of these mentions were on Election Day alone, compared to 96,000+ in 2011. When it comes to Facebook, their Head of Public Policy, Kevin Chan, reported that a total of 5 million unique individuals engaged on Facebook over the course of the Election, and 40 million different interactions were registered. I think it’s safe to say that social media played an important role—that is, apart from creating memes about Justin Trudeau’s hair.
By the Numbers
Justin Trudeau (Liberal)
Facebook (Justin Trudeau): 436,366 Likes
Twitter (@JustinTrudeau): 826,100 Followers
Instagram (@JUSTINPJTRUDEAU): 50,500 Followers
- 36% of Tweets during this campaign mention him by Twitter handle
- 18,000+ mentions on Twitter during his victory speech
Stephen Harper (Conservative)
Facebook (Stephen Harper): 247,289 Likes
Twitter (@pmharper): 920,400 Followers
Instagram (@PMSTEPHENHARPER): 10,900 Followers
- 25% of Tweets during this campaign mention him by Twitter handle
- 13,000 mentions on Twitter during his concession speech
Tom Mulcair (NDP)
Facebook (Tom Mulcair): 107,036 Likes
Twitter (ThomasMulcair): 191,000 Followers
Instagram (@TOMMULCAIR): 7,086 Followers
- 28% of Tweets during this campaign mention him by Twitter handle
- 2,2000 mentions on Twitter during his concession speech
Image Source: Twitter Canada
A Whole New Meaning to “Social Media Campaigns”
As we know, social media is an incredible tool for fostering two-way engagement and conversations with customers, or in the case of this election, between candidates and voters. Each of the parties took advantage of these platforms in different ways, and the results give us an incredible insight into the overall influence of the medium.
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals took incredible advantage of the tools at their disposal, and it was clear that they were trying (successfully?) to reach younger voters. Trudeau spent a lot of time creating personalized (and pretty hilarious) videos and speaking directly to voters on Twitter. If the 94,000 new followers gained throughout the course of his campaign are any indication, it seems to have worked. Many other members of the Liberal Party also made a point to respond directly to voters from their personal Twitter accounts.
On Facebook, Trudeau was cutting-edge. His high-quality interactions and solid engagement rate are reflected in his Likes—he had more than any other leader. His party took advantage of Facebook in innovative ways never before seen in Canada or the world. He did a “Facebook 50 second challenge”, where he answered rapid-fire questions on video in under 50 seconds, humanizing him and allowing voters to get to know him on a more personal level. He and his party also took to Facebook to announce his whole platform live, with voters able to send in questions to be answered on-air.
On the other hand, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives used social media as more of a one-way broadcasting tool than a way to engage with voters. With almost no Retweets or Replies to be found on his Twitter page, it’s clear that his strategy did not include voter interaction. On Facebook, Conservative messaging was conveyed in much the same way, with the exception of Harper’s participation in one live Q&A. The Conservatives used these platforms mostly to underscore policy, and to reinforce the messaging that he was conveying elsewhere. It’s worth noting that despite his old-school tactics, Harper still has the most Twitter Followers—though most of them were from before the campaign began. His followers didn’t grow exponentially throughout the campaign, and I’m guessing this was due to his lack of engagement.
The NDP’s Tom Mulcair is a blend of the two strategies; he and his party were more relatable, and engaged with voters on these platforms more than the Conservatives did, but their engagement rate was still lower than that of the Liberals on every single channel. Mulcair also did a live Q&A on Facebook, and though he ended the race with the lowest number of Twitter followers, he still saw a follower growth of 29%—the largest growth rate of all the leaders.
Though we didn’t disclose her follower numbers above, Green Party leader Elizabeth May is also an excellent example of social media use in this context. She operated her own Twitter account throughout the election (most of the other leaders’ accounts are at least partially run by campaign staff), Tweeted in her own voice and engaged directly with voters, making her arguably the most authentic of the bunch.
The Important Issues
Throughout the 78-day campaign, the other amazing thing that social media gave us was the ability to see exactly what Canadians were thinking in real-time, determining which issues were most important to voters. Twitter Canada was able to accurately track and analyze the conversations surrounding the election during the course of the campaign.
Seeing where the conversation was shifting at any given point during the campaign no doubt allowed candidates, analysts, and the general public alike to draw some conclusions about what Canadians were thinking, and to make some predictions about the results of the election. In fact, Twitter analysts accurately predicted a Liberal win in Ottawa, which has since shown to be true.
Image Source: Twitter Canada
The area of this election that has seen perhaps the strongest social media influence is voter engagement. These platforms provide more channels than ever before for candidates to get their messages out, and for voters to stay engaged. During this election, more Canadians than ever before took to social media to talk about the issues that matter most to them, and they’ll continue to address these issues long after the election is over.
This year’s debates in particular saw a great demonstration of voter engagement. Traditionally, voters had to tune in to watch the debates on TV at a specific time. This year, people were watching on TV, while following internet commentary on their laptops, and Tweeting from mobile devices. Voters who missed a debate because of work or other obligations were able to keep up through Facebook or Twitter. News outlets created debate-specific hashtags so that voters could easily follow along and participate in the discussion.
Elizabeth May took advantage of this in a brilliant way. During a leaders’ debate on September 17, 2015, to which Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair were invited, May decided to take part via Twitter despite not being invited herself. She tweeted her rebuttals and policy statements, and as a result, broadened the scope of the debate. That night, she garnered more Twitter mentions than any of the leaders taking part in the televised debate. It worked because more people than ever before were following the debate on social media.
Social media may have also played a role in getting young people, who are often viewed as less likely to vote, to cast their ballots. One quick search of the hashtag #votingselfie on Instagram shows thousands of voters 25 and under proudly posing at the polls. The Rick Mercer Report launched #VOTENATION, which made it possible for social media users to create custom profile photos superimposed with text reading, “I will vote Oct 19.” Facebook also launched the “voter megaphone,” a program aimed at reminding Canadians to vote, and directing them to the elections Canada website if they needed more information. Once a user cast their ballot, they were able to share the news on Facebook, which the creators hoped would prompt their friends to follow suit.
The influence that social media had on this election is undeniable. It played a positive role in voter turnout and perhaps even—dare we say it—in the Liberals’ victory. In the same way that a business can gain and maintain dedicated customers through social media, each of the parties were able to reach Canadians that may otherwise have remained unengaged. In our eyes, that’s a win!