In 1992 The Sun famously claimed to have swung the election back in favour of the Tory party, but this time around the big swing to Labour that few of the polls predicted was a lot less to do with what people read, and much more about what they watched.
And what people watched more than ever before was a host of videos on all the social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
They saw everything from conventional party political broadcasts re-purposed for the digital channels, films that spoofed or rubbished political leaders, edited versions of "carcrash" interviews, short animated snapshots of manifesto promises, or just funny little film soundbites. In fact, there were more videos seen, liked, commented on and shared than in any other UK election.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 7, 2017
A breakdown of activity across the main social media channels during the election, (data provided by social media tool Rival IQ) shows that, while all the parties increased their engagement with audiences during the campaign, it was Labour that grew and engaged audiences the most.
It’s good to look at engagement, rather than just views, because engagement measures the fact that people haven’t just seen a post, they have reacted to it – by liking, commenting, or sharing.
In fact, Labour ended up utterly dominating the Tories and the other parties in all the main social media channels and particularly in the most effective of those channels – Facebook.
They did it by choosing the right weapon to deliver their key messages – video.
From the start, Labour focussed their activity on video, posting an average of 13.3 videos per day with an additional average of 3.24 photo posts a day.
Overall during the campaign, Labour gained 6.43 million engagements versus 1.7 million engagements for the Tories. They grew their audience of followers by 52.2%, versus the Tories 9.76%. They also had more amplifications (shares and retweets) than anyone else, with 2.57 million, against the Tories, who managed just 532,000.
Another measure is applause, which just counts likes or reactions, and again Labour outperformed their opponents, with a score of 3.59 million versus 971,000 for the Tories.
From the start, Labour focussed their activity on video, posting an average of 13.3 videos per day with an additional average of 3.24 photo posts a day. The Conservatives were using more photo posts than videos, with an average 10 photo posts a day and 3.22 video posts a day.
This "video first" strategy really paid off for Labour, because the best performing posts of the whole campaign were overwhelmingly videos. In fact of the top 20 election posts, 19 are videos and 16 of these were made by Labour or by Momentum, the Labour activist group.
The overall election winner for "most engaging video" was Labour’s "Tory Britain 2030" film, which features a father explaining to his daughter why her generation won’t get free meals, smaller classes and can’t afford further education: "Because I voted for Theresa May". This got 7.8 million views and engagement of 222,940. It also has a 152% engagement rate. (This measures the total number of interactions, reactions, comments and shares per follower during the period.)
Runner-up was the video "A Policeman warned Theresa May" which is a clip of a conference where a policeman berates May about cuts to policing budgets. This got 4.62 million views, engagement of 96,729 and an engagement rate of 65.8%.
Coming in 3rd we have "We’re all in it together", again a Labour film which pits a banker against a nurse with a funny but nevertheless powerful message about social unfairness. This had 4.48 million views, engagement of 85,987 and an engagement rate of 58.5%.
So Labour got it absolutely right in focussing on the most powerful medium – video – and then by also choosing to post the kinds of video that people were much more likely to engage with, in order to spread their message across the country.
Of the top 20 election posts, 19 are videos and 16 of these were made by Labour or by Momentum, the Labour activist group.
As ever in marketing, whether for political parties or for brands, it’s not just about doing "stuff", it’s about doing the right stuff, in the right place and in the right way, allowing your brand to cut through the clutter and get audiences really engaged.
By luck or judgement, or simply by dint of the passion and creativity of their supporters, Labour won this vital battleground hands down. And more than anything else it was those Labour videos "what won it".
Although they didn’t actually win the election, they did manage to confound the polls and the pundits with a very smart campaign, almost entirely built around video.
Greg Delaney is a partner at watchablefilms.com.