Which #GE16 candidates are winning on social media so far?

There's already been 1.5 million Facebook interactions on the upcoming General Election since November

The General Election campaign is well and truly underway and unsurprisingly, given that there have been more than 1.5 million Facebook interactions on the election in Ireland since November - we are seeing increasing efforts from candidates and parties to harness the potential social media yields for the brave.

The politics of social media

Politics around the world is seeing an increase in efforts of engaging ‘millennials’ such as Hillary Clinton’s daily Snapchat story or Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s live-streaming of his swearing in ceremony on Periscope. Donald Trump is out in front with his use of Facebook video, so far in January 11 of his videos have racked up a whopping 39 million views and approximately 1.15 million interactions, with an average duration of just 43 seconds. 

According to research from Ipsos/MRBI ahead of the UK general election this year, more than a third of 18 to 24-year-olds indicated that reading something on social media would influence their vote, second only to televised debates.

The same study found that seven in 10 Britons feel that social media platforms are giving a voice to people who would not normally take part in political debate. This is particularly the case for young people. On balance, people also feel that social media platforms are breaking down the barriers between voters and politicians and political parties.

Facebook is now generating 8 billion video views worldwide every day and with 2.2 million active users each month in Ireland, this provides candidates with huge opportunities to reach voters in ways never seen before.

What’s the lay of the land in Ireland?

Cllr Jackie Cahill, vying for a seat in Tipperary, is one candidate who has tapped into this modern take on ‘parish pump politics’. In a video posted on January 14th, Jackie recognises that “lots of people are interested in politics, most people don’t join a party or canvass, but in this era of social media it is possible to be involved from the comfort of your own sitting room”.

The video has generated in excess of 23,000 views and is the first in a series. Not only is Jackie embracing Facebook video, he appears to understand what works – short, direct to camera, issue focused and subtitled.

Why is Jackie running for the Dail #GE2016

I have made this video to introduce myself to people I haven't had a chance to meet face to face yet. Lots of people are interested in politics, most people don't join a party or canvass, but in this era of social media it is possible to be involved from the comfort of your own sitting room. By sharing this video you will be playing a big part in my campaign and you will have a direct influence on the result of this important election for Tipperary JackiePlease Share #GE2016

Posted by Jackie Cahill on Thursday, 14 January 2016

Speaking about this particular approach, Cahill says he has been receiving “enormous” feedback on his Facebook campaign since they launched the videos, and is particularly pleased with the levels of engagement they are achieving because “at the end of the day politics is about participation, sharing of opinions and finding solutions to people’s problems”.

Not to be outdone, Taoiseach Enda Kenny nabbed Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg at the recent World Economic Forum in which both expressed their glee at having the social networking giant’s international HQ in Dublin.

In the leafy suburbs of Dublin Bay South, Cllr Kate O’Connell appears to have learned some tips from the Yes Equality campaign, using Facebook video to profile local businesses and feature local constituents. Her videos have amassed almost 75,000 views to date.

Social media provides the perfect platform for politicians to engage with supporters who you won’t reach through traditional media. Sell your message on-air, show your personality online.

Labour TD, and candidate for the hotly contested Dublin Bay North constituency, Aodhán Ó Ríordaín has built a following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of almost 20,000 through his clever use of selfies and humorous #GE16 canvassing rules. Ó Ríordaín exemplifies the benefits of mobilising your supporters and appealing to potential voters through social channels, giving it the attention and investment is requires and managing the communication personally. We’ll have to wait until polling day to see if the fruits of his labour pay off.

Cork East candidate for the Social Democrats and prolific Tweeter, Ken Curtin is certainly not shy of exploiting the opportunities social media can provide, jumping on the current ‘Be like Bill’ craze, crafting his very own #YesWeKen hashtag and keeping his followers entertained with his ‘colourful’ range of ties. Ken is “genuinely surprised” at how often his Tweeting comes up on the doorsteps, but is also acutely aware that an online presence works very much in tandem with the offline: “It’s still not a substitute for traditional canvassing, but for me there is an obvious symbiotic relationship between traditional canvassing and new media."

At present, out of the 479 declared candidates, 402 have Twitter accounts. This is already up on 2011, where 325 of the 522 help a presence of the micro-blogging platform. Although Twitter does not attract as many daily active users as Facebook, conversation about politics and the General Election are generating huge amount of impressions. These days, tweets containing the #ge16 are reaching an audience of over two million in any given 24 hour period. However, if you want to reach the largest potential audience, Facebook is the big player in the game.

What are we to expect?

With potentially five weeks to go until polling day, we are only getting started. Who knows what the social campaign will give us next? One thing is for sure, we have only just scratched the surface. Watch this space.