EU Referendum

Is it 'workin'? Social media playing key role in referendum battle

A campaign poster of a young lady doing some art work with the caption, Workin, Earnin, Making, hashtag, votin Image copyright #Votin

The battle between the Remain and Leave sides in the EU referendum is in full swing and social media is being used by both camps to try to win the race.

Younger voters have so far been slower to register to vote and campaigners are keen to win their attention and support.

Some strategies have enjoyed surprise success while others have misfired completely.

'Workin' 'Earnin' 'Makin' #Votin

The Britain Stronger in Europe group launched a social media campaign about young people "ravin", "shoppin" and "chattin" and then urging them to #stayin (the EU).

It was spoofed for dropping the 'g' and was seen by some as being patronising to young people.

Image copyright Louis G Thompson
Image caption A picture posted on Twitter mocking the #Votin campaign

The company behind the campaign is VentureThree and its spokesman TJ Rees told the BBC: "Traditional advertising and branding is typically done in isolation but with social media, once it is out there you have no control. This is positive and more democratic but it is also, by definition, unpredictable."

Three Lions

Mandy Boylett, a UKIP parliamentary candidate and committed Leave campaigner, produced a homemade video showing two versions of herself dressed in the union jack and singing a reworked cover of the England football anthem, Three Lions.

The video, including lyrics like: "They want prisoners to vote, They've taken all our fish and money through the years. There's regulations, red tape. It seems there's no escape 'til the Leave vote takes shape" was listened to by Europhiles and Eurosceptics alike and was an instant success on Facebook and Twitter.

"I was completely overwhelmed," said Boylett, "It went absolutely mad in the first 24 hours and went all over the world. There is something appealing to somebody in an unofficial capacity just having a go."

Image copyright Mandy Boylett


A group of Europeans living in the UK - who cannot vote in the referendum - wanted to show that they want the UK to stay in the EU.

Christine Ullman is a German digital marketer. She has been living in London for seven years and is co-creator of the Please Don't Go UK initiative.

"It had to be a positive message," she said, "We didn't want to tell people what to think about the EU but we wanted to express our love for our chosen homeland."

The group started the #HugaBrit campaign in which they invited fellow Europeans in the UK to share pictures of themselves embracing British friends, lovers and colleagues.

Image copyright @pleasedontgouk

One woman even posted a picture of herself hugging a statue of writer Virginia Woolf and, as well as enjoying social media success, the campaign also made it into the mainstream print press.

"We have received a lot of positive feedback and even people who are pro-Brexit have reached out to us to say they like [our] campaign'," says Ullman.

The lizard-chasing dog of Mallorca

An unlikely ambassador for the Remain group is a lizard-chasing dog from Mallorca called Anton, who has 10,200 followers on Instagram and the picture below is the second most debated photograph related to the EU referendum on the social network - according to research by the Oxford Internet Institute.

Image copyright @anton_lizard_chaser

Anton says: "Hola citizens of the UK. Don't lose your low-cost flights and access to Vitamin D - #voteyes stay with us in the EU! We love you."

Anton's Instagram fame shows how unpredictable social media is and the reaction to #Votin also illustrates how unforgiving an environment it can be.

As PR strategy consultant Deborah Mattinson says: "Social media campaigns need to be totally spot on or it's absolutely awful."

Compiled by Zak Brophy

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