Along with all other parties vying for a share of the electorate come May, the Liberal Democrats are gearing up for a focus on digital campaigning. This fact became even clearer during the Lib Dem conference this week.
The first indication of the increased digital focus was the release of the Lib Dem conference app, which was advertised to Lib Dem members prior to the conference via email and heavily promoted throughout the conference. The app was largely used for logistical purposes, including map, schedule and search functions. The conference’s daily publications and extras were also available on the app. However, the most noteworthy feature of the app was Twitter connectivity, linking the user with the @LibDemConf account.
Through this Twitter connectivity, users could easily access the #ldconf hashtag and other prominent Lib Dems on Twitter. At the beginning of the conference there seemed to be some confusion about which hashtag would take precedence. For instance, #libdem14 and #ld14 were collectively used nearly 4% of the time when discussing the conference. However, thanks to the app, by the end of the conference, 99% of all discussions included the official hashtag.
The hashtag was also used on Instagram, where MPs were getting involved by engaging with conference attendees. Lynne Featherstone, for example, did not Instagram any photos herself, but engaged with others who had used the hashtag.
In the week leading up to and including the conference, the #ldconf hashtag was used nearly 25,000 times, with a peak on Monday, 6 October and another on Wednesday, 8 October during Nick Clegg’s speech.
Compared to the other party conferences, which had Twitter mentions closer to 200,000 than 20,000, the Lib Dems did not generate as much traffic on Twitter.
It was interesting to note that the Conservatives, used infographics to compare Tory policy to UKIP policy in an engaging way to drive conversations on Twitter. Each day, conference attendees and Tories throughout the UK had opportunities to engage with shareable content. In comparison, photography was the only visual content produced by the Lib Dems. With Nick Clegg intent on making a “hymn” out of the Lib Dem motto (Stronger Economy Fairer Society), it seemed a missed opportunity to not turn this into engaging and attractive shareable content.
It was also interesting to note that some of Clegg’s biggest messages, including tax cuts, barely registered on Twitter. The #mentalhealth hashtag, which could have been a champion for the Lib Dems, was only used 0.7% of the time when discussing the conference. We have featured a summary of popular terms in our wordcloud below:
However, there is no doubt that the Lib Dem leadership was working hard to increase their online presence. At the conference, Nation Builder had a large presence, poised to help staff learn how to use their digital community organising system leading up to May. In the past, Lib Dems have also championed Connect, an online platform used to organise constituencies and reach out to them. Both systems have been used successfully in the US, and Nation Builder was famously used in Obama’s 2008 campaign. Additionally, throughout the conference MPs met with social media experts – clearly seeking ways to gain an edge on Facebook and Twitter campaigning.
Leading up to the election, an increased social media presence could bring young voters back to the fold with engaging content and direct messaging. However, the Lib Dems will need to continue to stay ahead of the game to gain ground.