This morning the Australian Financial Review, a highly regarded newspaper in this country, published an article stating that the Liberal National Party was winning the social media war. They said that because the Liberal Party had more ‘likes’ on Facebook and ‘followers’ on Twitter they were now a force to be reckoned with in the social media sphere. But does this actually mean that the Liberal Party will win government in Australia’s September election? Whether or not they do is irrelevant….and if they do, it won’t be because they have more Facebook fans.
Too often these days people consider ‘liking’ a page to be one of support for the cause. In some cases, such as with a television show or a musician, that’s true because it allows people to stay up to date with something that they are passionate about. In the case of political parties it’s anything but. Perhaps when it comes to politics they should relabel the ‘like’ button to avoid having to tell your friends that you may not like Party X’s policies but rather just want to stay up to date with their news. The AFR also points out that the LNP has boosted its Twitter followers by 6%. Obviously no one has informed the paper that it is not only possible but also quite common for political parties and celebrities to pay for followers to help boost their credentials.
The practice of buying Twitter followers (or Facebook fans, Instagram followers, etc.) is as old as social media itself, hinged on the archaic notion that quantity trumps all in the social interaction sphere.
But putting that major point aside, what good does a ‘like’ do? Whilst the Liberal National Party may have close to 60,000 fans on Facebook that does not mean that they will automatically receive the votes of every single one of those 60,000 people. The same goes for those who ‘liked’ Kony2012 pages and shared videos. Clicking a button does not translate into real activism. Whilst it is somewhat different here in Australia than America because we have a compulsory voting system; it is still necessary to solicit donations and volunteers out of your Facebook followers. Those who are not willing to do that for the LNP will simply be an extra digit on a Facebook page rather than an actual party supporter.
Yet the idea that ‘liking’ a page as some sort of real metric for social media success is also a common but dangerous misnomer. Far too many politicians, journalists and companies are focused on one single barometer for success: fans. Rather that should be considered one of the last indicators for a successful social strategy. The most important number that you want to leverage with social media is engagement. If you have a small, but passionate, community then you’re far more likely to be able to convert them or to have them be your brand ambassadors. These are real people who have tried your product (or support your political party) who can go to their friends, neighbours and family members and say: “I support XYZ because of these reasons”. THAT is what you want. It’s not the number of the people who you’re talking to but the passion and commitment that they have for you.
Until the day comes in which we vote for our Prime Minister by Facebook poll…the amount of fans that they have will have little impact on the actual electoral process.