Lessons from the ‘TikTok election’

The registration deadline has passed, the manifestos have been released and we’re all getting ready to vote in the UK’s general election next month – a process many of us are familiar with by now, after elections in 2019, 2017 and 2015.

However, unlike previous years, multiple party candidates are now utilising social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to help increase the size and demographic of their audiences. The upcoming election has been dubbed by some as the first ever ‘TikTok election’, with several major parties having now created accounts on the video platform to showcase their policies and publish short-form, humorous content, something the app is best known for.

TikTok tactics

The Labour Party currently has 5.1m likes on its TikTok account, Reform UK sit behind at 1.7m likes, with the Conservatives currently at 655,200 likes. The Liberal Democrats are next with 575,200 likes, compared to the Green Party having racked up 519,700 likes on the platform*.

The different parties have taken different approaches to content, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats publishing a mix of memes and trending content together with informative videos to inform people of their manifestos and policies. The Conservatives and Green Party are mainly adopting a more serious tone, using the platform to post educational videos, often with a politician talking to the camera.

Social media has suddenly become a significant aspect of political campaigning that has seen huge investment from parties. According to statistics from Who Targets Me, political parties have spent over £3.49m on social media advertising since Rishi Sunak announced the election in May, with Labour reportedly spending over £2.4m, specifically on Meta and Google ads alone – more than twice as much as the Tories have spent.

Fake news

However, in a world of AI and fake news, people are questioning whether social media platforms are really the best place for parties to be doing their campaigning. Just recently, a video of Labour member Wes Streeting was made to seem like he was calling fellow politician Dianne Abbott a “silly woman”. The comments on social media platform X ranged from people thinking they believed the video to be fake, compared with other users leaving abusive comments, which led to confusion on whether the video was, in fact, real. Labour candidate Luke Akehurst has also fallen victim to fake videos, where a fabricated clip emerged of him apparently stating that he’ll be elected by “thick” Geordies who think Gaza is a footballer.

Both these clips were confirmed as fakes by X’s fact checked service, however this was hours after they were published, by this time hundreds of users had the chance to view and comment.

It’s clear by the volume of content being posted along with the data presented to us, social media is a key priority for numerous parties, to target a wide range of age groups and audiences from across the country with their campaigning, but whether the content is of high quality and accuracy is often confusing.

Lessons for landlords

Whatever the result we wake up to on 5 July, it’s clear that social media – particularly TikTok – has played an even greater role as a communications channel for the main political parties than previous elections. As we have previously explored, many housing providers have been using TikTok to augment their social media comms. There are a range of approaches to content, but with large segments of the population – not just 18–30-year-olds – getting their news and information from social media, it will be important to learn the lessons from the general election campaign to inform future housing provider social media campaigns.

What do you think? Will you be using social media to help make your decision in time for 4 July? Join the debate on our LinkedIn.

To find out more about our social media advice and support, contact hello@see-media.co.uk.

*(At the time of publishing, 19.06.24)

Harriett Bolton is a Senior Account Executive at See Media