Don’t believe the hype

1. About us
Apex Communications has been advising corporate, public and third sector clients on communications issues since 2005. Brought together by commercial strategist Pete Bowyer and former government adviser Ed Owen, Apex Communications helps organisations influence opinions and shape reputations. Carlo Gibbs is Head of Online Engagement at Apex Communications

Get Elected is the only cross-party service that provides campaign support to candidates seeking election political office. Formed in 2009, Get Elected has provided candidates with a range of services, from constituency research, to web-design and speech writing. James Knight is Director of Get Elected Kind thanks and acknowledgements to the wider Get Elected team, in particular James Coady and Mark Staniland.

2. Introduction
The upcoming election is likely to be one of the tightest in recent years and the first time the nation has gone to the polls since the explosion of social media. This report has assessed the online presence of candidates across 100 key battleground and high profile seats. We have reviewed and analysed the activity of candidates who we consider have a genuine chance of winning their seat, and have looked at how prepared they are to campaign online for the election. This included a review of websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Inevitably, the three major parties have been battling each other to gain the supremacy online and have been developing some highly sophisticated software and online campaigning techniques. However, relatively little has been assessed about how individual candidates are using online platforms to help enhance their campaigns in constituencies across the UK. Our research took place throughout February 2010 and has provided a thorough audit of presence and activity levels online. The results clearly indicate that discussion surrounding the prominence and potential impact of social media platforms is often both over-stated and exaggerated.

Summary of results
This election will not be decided online. While the use of social media by the national parties, the press and the general public will have an impact on the election, our research shows there is little widespread and effective take up of online campaigning by individual candidates across the country. No party has yet managed to implement a consistent online strategy at candidate level, and we found very few constituencies where one or other of the candidates is dominating in any noteworthy way.

Key conclusions
• Some candidates still have little or no online presence Incredibly, there are a number of candidates in our sample that still have no online presence, including 10% that have no personal website. • Lip-service being paid to online campaigning While the majority of candidates are online in name, only a few are actively embracing the platforms. Most remain at a low level of activity and interaction, while dormant Twitter accounts and Facebook pages remain extremely common. • A few active candidates mask general lack of uptake There are some examples of candidates, especially those with national profile, dominating the online platforms in our sample. 62% of all the supporters and fans on Facebook come just from the top three most popular profile pages. • Online campaigning not integrated - a key online strategy A key test for effective use of online platforms is the level to which they are integrated with one another. Our research highlights, even where candidates have a good presence on one platform online, they often fail to link their presence to the other sites they use. Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs, as well as other platforms, are frequently viewed and delivered as separate entities. • Central parties use of new media has not filtered down consistently to candidates While the three main parties are all bidding to outdo each other, with online draft manifestos and iPhone applications, as well as appointing ‘Twitter Tsars’ and the like, uptake from candidates on the ground is often at the most basic level. • Minor parties and independents using online platforms more effectively The minor party and independent candidates in our sample are using online platforms more actively and effectively than the major parties. In most cases independents and minor party candidates remain relatively unchallenged online.

Key findings
10% of candidates still have no personal website 54% of websites have no links to candidate’s social networking platforms. 29% of candidates use a blog Top 10 most followed candidates on Twitter account for 52.6% of the total number of followers Top 10 most popular Facebook pages account for 84% of total Facebook supporters and fans

3. Sample
The sample of 100 seats was chosen by the Get Elected team to represent a broad range of likely key constituencies at the next general election. Drawing on and acknowledging the excellent insight offered by UK Polling Report, we have developed a sample that incorporates most key marginal seats, while not remaining exclusive to them. We have also included other seats that we consider interesting for other reasons, namely those with high profile independent candidates, recent by-election or possible Portillo-esque decapitations. For each seat, unless a three-way marginal or where a party leader is standing, we have only reviewed the online presence of the two candidates which, based on notional and previous figures, have the best chance of claiming victory. We have chosen exclusively to focus on a candidate’s website and blogging activity, combined with the largest two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. The research audit took place throughout February 2010. Over the 100 seats we reviewed the online presence of 233 candidates

85 Conservatives 78 Labour 54 Lib Dem 2 Green

5 Independent 3 Respect 3 SNP 1 Speaker


For more information about the sample, or for a full list of the 100 seats, please contact


4. Full Results
Campaigning websites
Lack of presence A staggering 10% have no personal website, with another 2% unavailable or under construction. Of those that do have a website, only 29% have a blog. Furthermore, these are not just candidates that have been selected recently, but sitting MPs and some that have been in position for a number of years. Low interaction Using our ranking scale of 1-3 our findings point to low overall scores across all parties in terms of levels of interaction with the user and regularity of website updates. On average, the candidates were marked a fairly derogatory 1.4 for interaction, and 1.7 for regularity. Lack of linkages The majority of websites were also not coordinated in their online campaigning, with 54% having no link to other online platforms. Further to this, our research found some instances of meaningless links to social media sites, pointing users to the Facebook homepage for example, or to a dormant Twitter page.

Lib Dem candidates embracing Twitter 45% of the total sample has some presence on Twitter. 50% of Lib Dems candidates had an account, just ahead of the Conservatives on 48%, with Labour having only 38% of their candidates being active on the platform. Labour with the widest reach Despite having fewer candidates signed up to Twitter, Labour candidates have been much more effective at getting followers1. The total number of followers for the 105 candidates on Twitter was 64,572 (not unique followers), with an average of 614 per candidate. The total number of followers for each party was 24,105 for Labour, 14,525 for the Lib Dems and 8,447 for the Conservatives. The average following was 804 for Labour, 537 for the Lib Dems and 206 for the Conservatives.


Total follower figures are not unique. We appreciate there will be much duplication across Twitter accounts and users. However, this gives a strong enough indication of direction of travel for conclusions to be drawn.

Average Twitter followers by party
900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 Labour
N.B figures exclude Nick Clegg2

Lib Dems


Clegg leading amongst leaders Although we omitted Nick Clegg from the average follower calculations, it is worth noting that while Conservative Party leader David Cameron remains off Twitter, Nick Clegg was the most followed in our review. A dominant few lead the many One of the striking aspects of the statistics is that a small number of politicians account for a large portion of the total number of followers. The top 10 politicians account for 52.6% of the total number of followers.

Nick Clegg Ed Balls George Galloway Sadiq Khan Ben Bradshaw Jim Knight Jo Swinson Caroline Lucas Esther Rantzen Julia Goldsworthy

Lib Dem Labour Respect Labour Labour Labour Lib Dem Green Indep Lib Dem

7,557 5,298 5,077 3,890 3,227 2,218 2,729 1,334 1,323 1,312

Top 10 total



Nick Clegg accounts for almost a third of total Liberal Democrat followers in our sample. To ensure direct comparison (as neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron are on Twitter) and to keep the focus on candidates rather than high profile party figures, we have excluded Nick Clegg from this specific calculation.

Most followed Twitter users 67% of all followers come from just 17% of the candidates. Conversely, 72% of the candidates combine to account for only 17% of the total followers. Average followers

17% have 1000+ followers

Top 17% account for 67% of followers

13% have between 500-1000 followers 38% have between 100-500 followers

27% have between 10-100 followers

account for 15.7% of followers account for 14.6% of followers

5% have fewer than 10 followers

2.5% of followers 0.2%

No prominent Conservative Party figure on Twitter As the table shows, a number Cabinet ministers have used their national profile to formulate an online Twitter following. Similarly, Nick Clegg has embraced the platform and is the most followed candidate in our sample. The top ten most followed has no Conservative Party candidate. Failing to connect with online constituents Taking a basic average, with 7.2% of the UK being on twitter3 and c70,0004 people in a constituency, the average amount of people on Twitter in a constituency is 5040. Of course there are huge variants in the size of UK constituencies and the regional use of Twitter, yet it seems fairly striking that only 3 out of 233, or 1.3% of our sample attain this average figure. All parties are struggling to interact effectively The research also looked into the levels of interactivity and regularity with which the Twitter accounts were updated. Using our rating scale of 1-3, where 1 means no activity and 3 means significant activity, the results were unimpressive, although markedly similar across parties.

3 4

http://blog.sysomos.com/2010/01/14/exploring-the-use-of-twitter-around-the-world/ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmgeneral/deleg2/090309/90309s01.htm

Regularity: 2.2 Interactivity: 1.7

Regularity: 2.2 Interactivity: 1.8

Lib Dem
Regularity: 2.3 Interactivity: 1.8

Dormant Twitter accounts remain common

Using Twitter just to broadcast, not interact

Labour behind on Facebook campaigning 59% of our sample use Facebook explicitly for campaigning5. 63% of Lib Dems candidates are using the platform, followed by 61% of Conservative candidates, while only 52% of Labour candidates have a campaigning page. Dominant figures leading the majority The top ten most followed listed below account for 84% of the total number of supporters and fans. The top three alone account for 62%.

George Galloway David Cameron Nick Griffin Jeremy Browne Nick Clegg Tim Farron Susan Kramer Andrew Slaughter Julia Goldsworthy Caroline Lucas

Respect Con BNP Lib Dem Lib Dem Lib Dem Lib Dem Labour Lib Dem Green

27,220 16,144 11,359 4,611 3,451 3,166 2,534 2,053 1,810 1,593

Prominent Labour candidates not embracing Facebook While staying away from Twitter, David Cameron has a strong and active campaigning page on Facebook. Nick Clegg similarly has a decent online following. While Barrack Obama continues to gather supporters, now close to 8 million, Gordon Brown is yet to have an official support page of any description. Labour grassroots ahead on average supporters Just as on Twitter, when the leaders are taken out of the equation, Labour average the highest following. On Facebook, Labour average 250 supporters, fans or friends, compared to 197 and 179 for the Conservatives and Lib Dems respectively.


Some candidates have multiple profiles or pages. Where this is the case, we have used only the one page we consider to be the principle campaigning page for that candidate, whether a group, a fan page or in some instances a personal profile.

300 250 200 300 100 50 0 Labour Conservative Lib Dems

Exc. leaders More lack of regularity Similarly to our Twitter findings, the three main parties all linger around the same mark when ranked on our 1-3 scale for regularity of Facebook updates, with Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems scoring 1.6, 1.6 and 1.9 respectively. Facebook pages with few fans and no interaction remain throughout

Some even without a picture

Uptake from minor parties and independents
Perhaps unsurprisingly, independents and minor parties in our audit are engaging in new media more actively. Respect’s leader Salma Yaqoob has built a solid online following and is almost unchallenged online by other candidates for Birmingham Hall Green. Another prominent Respect candidate, George Galloway, has amassed a huge amount of supporters online in his fight to gain Poplar and Limehouse. In Barking, neither Labour’s Margaret Hodge nor the Conservative’s Simon Marcus have embraced online campaigning to the same extent as their controversial opponent, BNP leader Nick Griffin. Caroline Lucas, in Brighton Pavilion, has capitalised on her national profile to build a strong online following. However, in this case, both Nancy Platts and Caroline Vere, of Labour and the Conservatives respectively, have also fully embraced and engaged new media effectively. Esther Ranzen in Luton South was developing a decent online following on Twitter and is generally well engaged with website and blog activity. None of the candidates from the major parties are using new media as effectively.

Tips for candidates: build a better online campaign
1. Prepare and understand • Understand the various platforms • Have a presence on all leading social media platforms • Build presence in advance of election campaign

2. Personalise and engage • Engage with supporters and followers, rather than just use as a broadcast medium • Personalise communications to enhance engagement • Make both proactive comment and to react to events

3. Maintain and manage • Take an active control over your online presence • Regularly update, don’t let accounts go dormant • Integrate all social media presence to build and maintain following

For further information, please contact james.knight@getelected.co.uk or carlo.gibbs@apexcommunications.com

5. Appendix A:
Barking Margaret Hodge Simon Marcus Nick Griffin Jonathan Woodcock John Gough

the list of seats and candidates reviewed


John Bercow Nigel Farage Julie Cooper Gordon Birtwistle Julia Goldsworthy Jude Robinson George Eustice

Burnley Barrow

Camborne & Redruth Battersea Martin Linton Jane Ellison Abjol Miah Rushanara Ali Roger Godsiff Jo Barker Jerry Evans Salma Yaqoob John Hemming Lynette Kelly Joan Humble Paul Maynard Dai Davies Nick Smith Roger Williams Suzy Davies Dawn Butler Sarah Teather Ann Keen Mary MacLeod Andrew Dakers Nancy Platts Charlotte Vere Bernadette Millam Caroline Lucas Bob Neill Chris Kirby Sam Webber

Bethnal Green & Bow

Carshalton & Wallington Tom Brake Ken Andrew Cheadle Mark Hunter Ben Jeffreys Martin Horwood Mark Coote Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones Duncan Hames Lindsay Hoyle Alan Cullens Douglas Carswell Ivan Henderson Laura Moffatt Henry Smith Edward Timpson David Williams Gavin Barwell Gerry Ryan John Adams Gareth Johnson Bob Laxton Stephen Mold Lucy Care Shahid Mailk Simon Reevell

Birmingham Hall Green


Birmingham Yardley


Blackpool North & Cleveleys Blanaeu Gwent



Brecon & Radnorshire


Brent Central

Crewe & Nantwich

Brentford & Isleworth

Croydon Central

Brighton Pavillion


Derby North

Bromley & Chislehurst


Devon North

Nick Harvey Philip Milton Mark Cann Jim Knight Richard Drax Oliver Letwin Sue Farrant Ian Pearson Chris Kelly Russell Brown Peter Duncan


Anne Milton Sue Doughty Linda Riordan Philip Allott Shaun Bailey Andrew Slaughter Glenda Jackson Chris Philp Ed Fordham Bill Rammell Robert Halfon Tony McNulty Bob Blackman Jesse Norman Sarah Carr Celia Barlow Mike Weatherley Chris Mole Ben Gummer Emily Thornberry Bridget Fox Roger Berry Chris Skidmore

Halifax Dorset South Dorset West


Dudley South

Hampstead & Kilburn

Dumfries & Galloway


Dumfriesshire Clydesdale David Mundell & Tweeddale Claudia Beamish Aileen Orr Dunbartonshire East Jo Swinson Mary Galbraith

Harrow East

Hereford & South Herefordshire Hove

Dunfermline & West Fife Willie Rennie Thomas Docherty Ealing Central & Acton Angie Bray Bassam Mahfouz Jon Ball Jim Murphy Richard Cook Chris Huhne Maria Hutchings Alistair Darling Jason Rust Tim McKay Joan Ryan Nick de Bois Ben Bradshaw Hannah Foster Jack Lopresti Ian Boulton Peter Tyzack John Mason Margaret Curran


East Renfrewshire

Islington South & Finsbury Kingswood


Edinburgh South West

Kirkaldy & Cowdenbeath Gordon Brown Lindsay Paterson John Mainland Gavin McClement Leeds NW Greg Mulholland Julia Mulligan Judith Blake Joan Ruddock Darren Johnson Luciana Berger Colin Eldridge Robert Wareing Stephen Twigg

Enfield North


Lewisham Deptford

Filton & Bradley Stoke

Liverpool Wavertree

Glasgow East

Liverpool West Derby

Luton North

Kelvin Hopkins Jeremy Brier Gavin Shuker Nigel Huddleston Qurban Hussain Esther Rantzen John Leech Lucy Powell Annette Brooke Nick King Ed Balls Antony Calvert Richard Benyon David Rendel Richard Younger-Ross Anne-Marie Morris


Jacqui Smith Karen Lumley Susan Kramer Zac Goldsmith Eleanor Tunnicliffe Mark Reckless Teresa Murray

Luton South

Richmond Park

Rochester & Strood Manchester Withingon

Mid Dorset & North Poole Morley & Outwood

Romsey & Southampton Sandra Gidley Caroline Nokes Aktar Beg Rugby Mark Pawsey Andy King Paul Blomfield Paul Scriven Nick Clegg Nicola Bates Jack Scott


Sheffield Central

Newton Aboott

Sheffield Hallam

Northamptonshire South Andrea Leadsom Matthew May Norwich North Chloe Smith John Cook Charles Clarke Antony Little Simon Wright Derek Conway James Brokenshire Rick Everitt Andrew Smith Ed Argar Steve Goddard

Sittingbourne & Sheppey Gordon Henderson Angela Harrison Solihull Lorely Burt Maggie Throup David Heath Annunziata Rees-Mogg John Pugh Brenda Porter Anne Main Roma Mills Sandy Walkington Lynda Waltho Margot James Julie Elliott Lee Martin Jeremy Browne Mark Formosa Sadiq Khan Mark Clarke

Norwich South

Somerton & Frome

Old Bexley & Sidcup


St. Albans Oxford East

Stourbridge Oxford West & Abingdon Evan Harris Nicola Blackwood Sunderland Central Poplar & Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick Tim Archer Jonathan Fryer George Galloway Jamie Hanley Stuart Andrew

Taunton Deane




Adrian Sanders Marcus Wood Alan Campbell Wendy Morton Claire Ward Richard Harrington Sal Brinton



Westmorland & Lonsdale Tim Farron Gareth McKeever Winchester Martin Tod Steve Brine David Cameron Joe Goldberg Dawn Barnes Harriett Baldwin Richard Burt Richard Taylor Mark Garnier Nigel Knowles Julian Sturdy James Alexander Madeleine Kirk


Worcestshire West

Wyre Forest

York Outer

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