Social Targeting's Always Right, But It's The Message That Counts

Social media is all about broadcasting organic messages to far-flung followers -- and then, when it comes to advertising, refining the message to as well-defined an audience as possible. Isn't it?

That's what makes it hard to swallow today's assertion that the Conservative Party lost the social media war during the election because of too much targeting. It just doesn't add up. At least the research from We Are Social and Who Targets Me, featured in Netimperative, references that this flies completely in the face of what was perceived to be the way the 2015 election was won. 

Indeed, The Telegraph ran an article from the Conservative Party's Digital Lead in 2015 in which it was made clear the party felt that close targeting of people it wanted to convey a message to had worked far better than Labour's more scattergun approach. This is acknowledged by the social media researchers who still seem to be claiming the opposite is true in 2017 -- but does that actually make sense?

I have to be honest -- I don't think so. There is a famous saying in history that every war is lost in the same way the last was won. In other words, if you try to repeat a success from before you often find a situation has changed. Blockading Germany at the end of the First World War led to hungry people demanding peace whereas cutting off and bombing Britain a little over twenty years later had the opposite effect, merely firming up the national resolve never to be defeated.

But can we say the same with social media? Did everything change between 2015 to 2017. I don't think so. The researchers are quick to point out that Labour won hearts and minds on social with far more follows, and in separate multiple articles, authors have pointed out that the Conservatives were beaten when it went to going viral. Labour's messages flew around the Internet, shared voraciously by young disciples, whereas Tory message languished unshared in feeds. 

The researchers also go on to say that the Conservative Party targeted undecided voters in marginals and that this was far too narrow. I couldn't disagree more. Where else would you want to place budget other than the very people you are looking to get a message across to? Surely, just as in 2015, this tactic had to be most cunning. Focus spend where it is most needed -- don't scatter resources into the wind.

So why the bad result for the Conservative Party? Perhaps the best explanation, in terms of social media, comes from aTelegrapharticle in which We Are Social researchers talk about the Tories using the same targeting but getting the messaging wrong. Instead of inspiring wavering voters with a message of hope or inspiration, the messaging was all about continuity of -- you guessed it -- "strong and stable" leadership. For people who are unsure, or at least weren't convinced by you two years ago, is offering more of the same a good idea?

In contrast, Labour spent less and was less focused on targeting. However, the message of hope and change appealed to young people -- and as anyone on social media can testify, their posts went viral and knocked whatever Conservative Party HQ was cooking up for six.

So there you have it, guys -- it wasn't about targeting, it was all about the message. This chimes perfectly with what anyone noticed during the awful campaign Theresa May ran. Just repeating a tired slogan doesn't appeal to the undecided, and it just annoys the hell out of supporters. 

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