The recent media storm around Tory campaign funding jogged a promise I made to try and answer a big question about the importance of social media on the outcome of the election.
Just how effective will a poster campaign be for the Tories? And is it possible that more people would see Labour’s spoofs of Tory posters than the real thing?
The news media traditionally cast outdoor advertising as almost the be all and end all of campaigns - and true enough Saatchi’s ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ campaign from the late 70s is memorable and in 1997, Labour’s attack ads on the Tories generated 60% awareness.
But how many people can the Tories claim to have reached with the latest wave of posters - and how many of those reached will be positively influenced by the posters?
Effectiveness figures on marketing campaigns are a closely guarded secret, but using industry averages we can start to come to an answer.
These industry figures suggest a 29% recall of a poster / billboard campaign (CASI via www.posterscope.co.uk). BUT given the sites chosen for political campaigns tend to be those that are more visible - but which only deliver exposure of message for 3 seconds, the recall decreases dramatically to just over 4% (based on calculations made using stats from the 2007 paper “Total Recall: advertising exposure and engagement.”)
And there is another downside to such short-term recall - the actual impact of these sites could be reduced further as 29% who saw posters for 3 seconds said it had no effect on them.
This means a real impact on just 1.2% of the population - or under three quarters of a million people.
So – to the second part of the original challenge: how many people might have seen the unofficial Labour spoof campaigns?
The popularisation of www.mydavidcameron.com, was led by Labour supporters on Twitter which has 10,355 followers. On average each Twitter user has 300 followers according to Hubspot. Which means that if everyone of the followers Tweeted out a spoof poster it could reach 3,106,500 people. Even allowing for a lower average Twitter following of 100 (which Hubspot seems to advocate doing), a concerted campaign by all members could reach more people than a poster campaign.
The problem with Twitter, of course, is that people tend to only follow those in similar 'crowds' so such a campaign will not reach the general public or people who don't share their views (apart from via resulting media coverage of mydavidcameron). So instead perhaps we should look at Facebook as a medium / distribution tool. Here Labour have 5,834 fans, but with each Facebook fan having an average of 130 friends - often established through more natural networks - a single post by all members could reach 758,420 people.
There are obviously other factors which should be taken into account, for example, not all fans/followers will join in a campaign and the coverage of the original Tory posters in the mainstream news media adds to their reach. But hopefully this short analysis gives some backing to the argument that social media networks will be vital in the 2010 election – with the potential to generate more awareness in a few clicks by followers than would be achieved through an expensive poster campaign.
And it is also possible, that more people saw a mydavidcameron spoof than the original Conservative poster.