Labour or Conservatives: Who’s making the best use of Facebook?

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In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been the main political rivals since the start of the 20th Century. Today they are vying to capture the hearts and minds of voters on Facebook. But how well are they doing? Here’s a nonpartisan analysis of what these two parties are doing using this social network, and what we can learn from them.

We used the  Engagement Analytics tool by Socialbakers to compare both pages. Audience size for the parties is relatively even, but the Conservatives have certainly taken a lead here.

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook statistics

However, at FreshNetworks we believe that the real indicator of success of a Facebook page isn’t its audience size but the level of engagement. More on that later…

1. Content strategies

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour seem to have developed the type of content strategy that we would always recommend for our clients.

In fact, it appears that both pages seem to be almost purely focussed on sharing links to blog posts and articles on their respective websites. We find that a rich mixture of content, including photos and albums, as well as short, punchy status updates and questions are great for engaging audiences. Our experience is that links shared direct to the newsfeed are often the least engaging of all Facebook post types.

2. Post frequency

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook post frequency

Probably the biggest difference between the parties in how they use Facebook is the frequency at which they post content, and as far as we’re concerned, neither is getting quite right.

We’d say that it’s Labour who have got it most wrong however, as they are almost certainly over-sharing. Take a look at the graph above – now, we think there’s nothing wrong with posting every day if the message is right, but 11 posts in one day? Even the most ardent fan of your brand (or in this case political supporter) is going to suffer from at least mild fatigue at all those updates. In total over the three month period we monitored, Labour posted 284 times – an average of three posts a day, seven days a week.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the Conservative party who definitely seem to have a ‘less is more’ attitude to sharing content with their Facebook fans – never posting more than once in a day, and often with several days between posts. Over the same three month period they posted just 10 times.

With a proper content plan to support their social media strategies, we think both parties could probably do with meeting somewhere in the middle on post frequencies. It’s all about putting out the right content, at the right time of day for your audience, without over-sharing, but whilst maintaining an ongoing flow of conversation with your audience.

3. Engagement

So what about the all-important engagement rate?

It seems by posting so much less than Labour, the Conservatives have won-out in terms of engaging their audience with an engagement rate of three and a half times that of that their rivals. The number of total interactions by Labour’s Facebook fans might be six times higher, but that’s not so great when you think that they’ve posted 28 times as many posts to Facebook.

So what have we learned?

Well, the Conservatives do have a better engagement rate AND more fans, but we don’t think they’ve delivered any knock-out punches with their Facebook page. They would probably benefit from posting a little bit more than they do, and Labour definitely needs to stop posting so much. Most importantly though, is the content. Content is king and neither party has got it right. Politics is an emotive topic, and over 50% of eligible voters will vote for one of these parties at the next election. There are huge issues to debate out there, and both sides could do with striking up more of a debate with their audience by asking more questions and relaying soundbites of party leaders. More photos shared into the newsfeed can really help tell more of a story, not to mention catching the eye of fans in their newsfeeds.

Will 2009 be the year of Twitter?

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Image via CrunchBase

It’s been a busy week for news this week, but one thing that struck me was the amount of discussion in the press in the UK about Twitter.  It started with the broadsheets: on Tuesday, the Guardian asked What are you doing and then on Wednesday the Independent asked Why are we still hearing so much about Twitter. But perhaps today’s article was most interesting, when the Sun asked if you Fancy a twitter with Britney.

The fact that the Sun is now talking about Twitter has great significance for its uptake. Whilst the Guardian and Independent have been talking about Twitter for sometime, they have a combined  distribution of just over half a million readers. The Sun on the other hand is the UK’s best read newspaper, with over 2.5 million people reading it every day. It has been proven to provoke strong emotions and have great influence - from their iconic front-page on the day of the elections in 1992 which many claim contributed to the defeat of the Labour party, to the fact that many people in Liverpool still boycott the newspaper after their reporting of a tragedy in 1989. The Sun is perhaps one of the most influential and widely read newspapers in the UK.

So why does this matter and what does it have to do with Twitter?

Whilst many people may be using Twitter, it only becomes really useful as a social media tool when it starts to meet mass adoption. Just like the first fax machine, or the first use of email, Twitter and other social media tools become more useful and more rewarding the more people that use them. They will only really come into their own when they stop being niche and start being popular. To date, I don’t think that Twitter has been ‘popular’ in this, and the common, meaning of the word. It has been something that a large group of people have used and got benefit from, but this group has to some extent been restricted or limited - people who share certain interests or common characteristics of some kind.

The fact that the Sun is now reporting about Twitter suggests that it is starting to gain the kind of mass, or popular, influence that will see it really come of age. Other suggestions of this mass influence include reports that Jonathan Ross, a recently controversial comedian and chat show host in the UK, will use Twitter as part of his Friday Night with Jonathan Ross show when it begins again in a couple of weeks. This is a show that regularly receives around 5 million viewers, perhaps one of the most watched chat shows in the UK.

Social media tools become most useful when they become popular and mainstream. We know that this is happening when they are talked about and used in mainstream media. Twitter seems to have taken a big leap forward in this regard in the UK this week. Perhaps 2009 will be the year it makes it.

Update: Discussion on SocialMediaToday

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