There has been a lot of furore over the £9 million spent by the UK government to leaflet every home in Britain - and I have to admit I’m perplexed as well. Not because of the politics, simply because the channel selection is rubbish! If engaging and informing young people was the aim, the obvious medium for a marketing strategy would have been social.
£9,000,000 on postal? Are you mad?!
Whatever side of the EU campaign you sit on, I'm sure we can all agree that mass postal campaigns are hardly a beacon of discussion or engagement. There has been a lot of talk about how both camps of the referendum should be informing all voters, especially younger demographics. The outcome will ultimately affect them the most - yet this blanket messaging approach seems so antiquated that its baffling.
There has already been a lot of analysis on the influence of Facebook on elections. It can increase voter turn out and sway elections - just look at Obama in 2008 - so the question is, why is it being passed over here? This whole episode highlights one of the fundamental aspects of message delivery which is so often forgotten -
"The message and the medium must match the (wo)man."
Gather, share, discuss with a social media marketing strategy
Social media has become an ever-present focus in people's lives. It is increasingly where people go for news and commentary about the world around them. We are engaging with social media platforms, gathering, disseminating and sharing information and opinions more than ever. In my mind, this is fundamentally aligned with true democracy. There is something Orwellian about receiving an emblazoned pack through your door, telling you to read and agree with the information inside.
The lack of information on both sides of the argument is the biggest gripe many voters have, so why not start discussion in an open and connected forum such as Facebook? For both sides, this would be a way to generate a highly informed and enthused voter base. The effect of this is something we call a filter bubble, which is a fancy term for saying "people like people that agree with them".
We like content which appeals to us. In turn, this dictates our preferences, and the algorithms then prioritise similar content for us. We also do this in a social sense, by championing certain viewpoints and dispelling others within our peer group. This has a polarising effect on our views, especially when it comes to politics.
People who spend alot of time online are not as invested in more traditional methods of communication. Nielsen figures from 2015 show that:
"Editorials, radio and email have seen a marked decline in trust since 2012."
Instead of blanket messaging, the UK Government could have used a paid social marketing strategy to find those aligned with their message and create a strong narrative to build engagement, which would likely translate into voter turn out.
This is basically what Sanders and Trump have done in the US - playing to a strong narrative and using a digital marketing strategy to spread and polarise a loyal and highly motivated support base. This has allowed them to compete against much larger, better-financed campaigns and still see success.
But how can the normal business target small groups and create a filter bubble and narrative? Easy - precise targeting and strong messaging.
Facebook and most other social platforms have such refined targeting, it's a little bit creepy. If I was to cross match location, car type and employer data, I’m pretty sure I could spam my old manager into submission.
Think of your phone as a little rectangular snitch, feeding insights to the monolith which is Facebook. This information is readily available to those who want to advertise, so why not use it as part of your marketing strategy too?
The first step would be to get an idea of who your audience is, and build out a profile. For example: Mrs Remain is a politically centrist, middle income office worker with a young child. She reads broadsheets and avoids tabloid newspapers. She is paying a mortgage and childcare, so is worried about how Brexit will effect her finances, and she is frustrated by the lack of impartial information on the subject.
For this persona, we could look at those with a Lib Dem or Labour affinity who read the Guardian, have a mortgage, an income below 50k and children below 12. We would then exclude those who read red sheets and tabloids. This would then give us a relevant audience who we believe will be receptive to our intended message.
The next stage would be to create strong messaging for that persona. A clear and factual information piece, titled "10 Outcomes Leaving the EU could have on your Home," would be likely to align with the persona and be liked, boosted and shared across social media platforms.
The final piece of the process is to have a strong social presence, actively engaging with the community and guiding the discussion. By challenging and discussing negative posts, a skilled social networker can graft a narrative to enthuse even the most obtuse people.
We are "not" all in this together
Blanket messaging the entire UK population may seem like a fair and equal approach to a big topic. However, we'd like to contest that - and for those of us who don't have £1 million a week to spend on , it seems unjustifiable. Luckily, with some logical thinking and expertise you can create, engage and guide a marketing strategy that will generate positive outcomes.
People are not all the same, we are not all in this together. To advertise to everyone in the exact same way is pointless. Select those who are sympathetic to your message, use the right platforms and create a strong narrative. Do this, and you can engage and inform people without having to spend £9 million.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. Make sure your social media management is helping not damaging your brand by reading our post "How to boost your brand reputation with social media management"