Wales politics

Welsh politics' use of social media 'primitive'

Facebook, general elections
Image caption Facebook UK's politics specialist says social media is 'absolutely at the heart' of this year's election campaigns

Commentators have suggested the 2015 UK general election will be the first to be significantly determined by websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Barack Obama's social media strategy in 2012 was hailed a success and Hilary Clinton announced her bid for the US presidency amid online fanfare.

But how effectively is Welsh politics harnessing digital power?

Expert Paul Shepherd described social media campaigning by the major Welsh political parties as "primitive".

Image copyright Plaid Cymru/Twitter
Image caption An image used on Plaid Cymru's Twitter page

"It's active, engaging in places, but there is so much more that could be done by analysing social media data and reacting to the wealth of information held within," said Mr Shepherd, chief executive of social media agency, Coup Media.

He said it reflected most of the digital campaigning across the UK, adding: "It's disappointing because the tools and skill sets are now available to really drill down into what people think and react accordingly."

Plaid Cymru has garnered 16,400 Twitter followers and 15,244 "likes" on Facebook - the most received by any Welsh party.

Image caption Welsh party social media figures

Mr Shepherd, whose company has offices in Newport and London, said the party had partly taken "the humorous route".

One of its promotional videos, which has been viewed more than 6,000 times, begins with a young man confessing to his parents he has a personal secret.

"There is something I need to tell you," he says, adding after a strained pause: "I'm voting Plaid".

Figures uncovered earlier this year showed the Conservatives were spending £100,000 a month on Facebook across the UK.

Image copyright Welsh Liberal Democrats
Image caption Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams addresses the party's YouTube page

Mr Shepherd said the Welsh Conservatives had been tactically "good" at breaking down video content by topic, such as those on the NHS and the Budget.

However, he said the execution was "poor".

The party has 1,598 Twitter followers and more than 5,500 Facebook "likes".

Welsh Labour's Twitter account, which has 6,350 followers, was "extremely active" with a large number of responses to its posts, including celebrity endorsements from the likes of Eddie Izzard, Mr Shepherd observed.

Its Facebook page has 1,482 "likes".

Image copyright Labour/Facebook
Image caption Welsh Labour's Facebook page

However, a Labour advert starring The Hobbit actor, Martin Freeman, had an "unexpectedly" low amount of views on the Welsh Labour YouTube channel.

Welsh Liberal Democrats has 4,064 Twitter followers and more than 2,000 Facebook "likes".

'Pushing policy'

The party's promotional video on YouTube depicts leader, Kirsty Williams, addressing the camera, intercut with supporters giving positive comments from their doorsteps.

Mr Shepherd said the party's Twitter feed was not as active as others but its Facebook page had a better mix of "pushing policy and attacking other parties".

The Green party's Twitter account, which has 2,787 followers, is a "lot less confrontational" than its rivals and more focused on itself, he added.

But its engagement was slightly lower, "with re-tweets and 'Favourites' not as high as some of the other parties".

Image copyright Welsh Conservatives/Youtube
Image caption A Welsh Conservative video which criticises Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood

Mr Shepherd noted that the UK Independence Party's twitter account, which has under 600 followers, used "a lot" of re-tweets.

He said this suggested the party was "curating rather than creating content", which could signify "a lack of confidence in policy or just lazy Twitter strategy".

Mr Shepherd urged the parties to pay more attention to the way the public interacted with their online content.

Image copyright UKIP/Twitter
Image caption The Welsh UKIP Twitter account uses 'a lot' of re-tweets, an experts has said

"It's all a huge source of intelligence that, when treated correctly, can give you the insights that will give the edge over the competition," he added.

"It also shows the electorate that you're doing the most important thing - listening."

Elizabeth Linder, politics and government specialist of Facebook UK, said last month social media would be "absolutely at the heart" of political campaigning across the UK.

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