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Over a week has gone by, the Queen’s Speech has taken place, and we’re all still talking about the General Election and who exactly won… and how.  Back in 1992 it was, supposedly, ‘the Sun wot won it’ for the Tories. Fast forward 15 years and it has been claimed that it was ‘Facebook wot swung it,’ making Labour winners… even though they didn’t win… if you know what we mean.  So, as Theresa May continues to attempt to build a government, having lost out on so many seats to the Labour Party, we ask why Facebook was so important to Labour’s campaign.  Was it a case of the same argument as 1992, but with different media?

It all comes down to one very simple point.  Knowing how, and more importantly where, to target your chosen audience makes all the difference between failure and victory.  But let’s look at the different approaches.

Tory presence on Facebook consisted largely of paid ads that took an attacking tone. In many ways, their personal tirades against Jeremy Corbyn helped Labour more than it hindered it. People didn’t seem to care. It was the same old mud-slinging message. None of the Tory ads gained much viral traction, and did nothing to battle Labour’s ‘Corbynista Facebook army.’

Whilst he may have failed to gain an ultimate voting majority, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have dwarfed his political rivals on social media.  The Tories may have had more Facebook Ads than Labour, but Corbyn’s official Facebook page has more than double the number of likes as Theresa May and more than 30 times the Lib Dems’ Tim Farron. How? Because his army of followers leveraged the Facebook community to spread the word in a variety of ways.  It became a numbers game.

Facebook pages played a significant part. There are hundreds of pages dedicated to Corbyn, many with tens of thousands of members. One called “We support Jeremy Corbyn” has more than 55,000 members, more than 15,000 of which were added in the last few weeks. The chatter generated in these groups gives Labour a far more organic presence than the Tories – their tone is positive rather than attacking, and focuses on their own strengths instead of their rivals’ failures. The Tories may have ended up with the largest party in the House of Commons, but when it comes to leader enthusiasm it’s clear that Corbyn is miles ahead. Facebook helped shape Labour into an approachable and genuine presence.  Rather like it did with Donald Trump, in the 2016 Presidential Election, like him or loath him, it transformed him into an approachable, reachable entity – rather than a face(book)less politician.

So what lessons can law firms learn from all this?

First off, getting the right tone is key. They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and from what we’ve seen this seems to be true. Whilst personal attacks against political rivals is something we’d expect to see during the campaign, it doesn’t seem to go down so well on social media. By focusing on your rival’s faults, you often fail to promote yourself. In fact it’s highly likely that followers will want to know more about the company you’re bashing, so you’re helping people gain awareness of them.

Second, and more important, is knowing where to target your audience. Labour did a great job of engaging younger voters through Facebook, because that’s the ideal place for them to be reached. Do some research and find the channels that your target audience is best reached though and focus your efforts there. If your main clientele are based in London you’re probably not going to put up adverts in Manchester, so why should online marketing be any different?

Finally, the moral of the story: ignore social media at your own peril. It’s easy to think that the social engagement part of social media is only for teenagers.  And it’s easy to concentrate on whacking out adverts, rather than talking to people.  But the clue is in the name – SOCIAL media.  If you don’t keep up with the conversation you’ll soon get left behind. If it can be make or break who ends up in no 10, then what can it do for your commercial objectives?