Social Media Personas -- Challenger Or Incumbent? Tory Or Labour?

As Labour launches its manifesto today, the social media political battleground will almost certainly switch from general, opening arguments to specific pledges and how they will be paid for. This makes today an opportune time to reflect on how the two main parties have been approaching social media.

The two very different strategies, so far, show a split between the Conservatives focussing on personalities and leadership while Labour is more keen to draw attention to issues. It's interesting not only for the politicians, but also digital marketers to see how focus and picking an angle and running with it on social is seen as the best way to get a brand message over. The difference here is whether the brand is best reflected in a person or a series of values.

For the Conservatives it is plainly clear in analysis reported on by The Telegraph that the election is all about personalities. Namely their own Theresa May versus Labour's Jeremy Corbyn. According to the research, three in four of all the social media posts from the political parties that mention either May or Corbyn come from the Conservatives. Just 19% come from Labour. 

Yet when it comes to the crucial issues of how taxpayers' money is spent, the NHS, education and the police appear in 20% of Labour posts and just 2% of those from the Conservatives. 

This doesn't stretch, however, to the big issue of the day, the elephant in the room -- Brexit. Just 2% of Labour posts talk about the split with the EU, while nearly one in three -- 30% -- of Conservative posts mention leaving the EU. 

As for the campaign slogans, nearly half of all Conservative posts mention the tiresome "strong and stable government" the UK public is already sick and tired of hearing repeated at the end of every sound bite. As for Labour? Only 11% of posts feature "for the many not the few."

So the Conservative party is undoubtedly using social media to present its slogan and its leader in reference to one major issue, Brexit. Labour, on the other hand, is less keen to reference its leader and campaign tagline, preferring to pick up on public services. In other words, both parties are sticking to the area they are strongest in.

The Conservatives have transformed into the party of Brexit with a leader who is trusted to deal with the EU far more than Labour's top man, opinion polls repeatedly show. However, Labour knows there is deep concern around funding for the NHS, schools and the police, and so is sticking to those issues. 

It must be emphasized that this is all in the run-up to the launch of Labour's manifesto today and the Conservatives following suit some time this week. 

So what are the lessons for digital marketers? The takeaway seems pretty clear to me. Focus on the conversation you want to have and don't deviate. Labour wants to talk about public services and the Conservatives want to talk about strong leadership steering the country out of EU membership. Conservatives want to present an overarching brand, and Labour wants to stick to the detail. 

In a way, Labour is using social like a challenger brand, for the very good reason that that's exactly what it is. It can chip away with its points about current funding levels and what is promised while the Conservatives are the incumbent playing up the angle of sticking with the status quo rather than taking a chance on a new direction.

It's fascinating to watch these two strategies develop, and for digital marketers there are clear personas here they can choose between -- Challenger tackling the issues they want talked about or incumbent talking about strength and continuity, and where needed, focussing on just the one issue they are trusted most on. 

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