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UK general election 2024: How 6 key candidates are using their social media platforms to win over voters

Posted by Emilie McMeekan in Analysis

1 month ago

As the election campaign ramps up, the battle for the hearts and votes of the electorate continues on multiple fronts: from the doorsteps, to the television debates, to newspaper editorials and, of course, social media. A 2024 study by We Are Social found that: “The 56.2M social media users in the UK (82.2% of the population) spend an average of one hour and 49 minutes on social media each day.”

Pressure is on to win the attention race, and therefore the parties are depending on digital marketing to target voters. According to BBC News, published figures from Who Targets Me revealed that “Labour spent almost £1.4m [on digital marketing] between the first week of May and June, while the Conservatives spent about £750,000. The site’s figures suggest that the Liberal Democrats spent around £45,000, Reform around £8,000 and Plaid Cymru around £2,500.” On the podcast The Rest Is Politics, Alastair Campbell surmised that Labour’s digital marketing spend was significantly higher because it was investing in targeting younger voters, who are more online and therefore more expensive to track.

CORQ’s editorial team has been analysing political content since the announcement of the election date, and you can see a deep dive into the parties’ presences on social media here, as well as analysis of the Liberal Democrat’s campaign here and the battle for young voters, here. But what of the candidates themselves? Are their accounts party political broadcasts or glimpses into their personal lives? Here is a snapshot of how the main parties’ leaders and powerful personalities operate online.

Sir Keir Starmer – Labour leader

Sir Keir Starmer’s Instagram is packed with pictures from the campaign trail and is uniquely a political portfolio. His X and Facebook pages are also completely policy-oriented, with pithy, punchy statements and manifesto pledges. His family and even his football team, Arsenal, are almost totally absent.

Rishi Sunak – Conservative leader

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has the largest following but the lowest engagement on Instagram of all the leaders and principals. Posts on the platform featuring his wife Akshata Murty, here (IER 1.72%) or cheering his team (Southampton) to Wembley, here (IER 2.43%), generally have the highest engagement. Both his Facebook and his X pages are almost purely political platforms, toeing the party line – with the exception recently of posts cheering the promotion of Southampton FC to the Premier League.

Jess Phillips – Labour candidate

Jess Phillips is extremely media savvy. Phillips has her own podcast, Electoral Dysfunction, co-hosted with Sky’s Beth Rigby and former Scottish Conservatives leader Baroness Ruth Davidson, appears on programmes such as Have I Got News For You and features on glossy magazine covers. Her Instagram is a friendly blend of cocktails and garden shots as well as policy posts and podcast publicity. Her X page is a mix of policy posts, punchy commentary and retweets – with a side of humour – including commentary on major cultural events such as Eurovision and the Euros. Phillips has been very vocal about the level of abuse aimed at politicians on X: “There is no way of winning in that space – it’s so horrendous,” she told BBC News in 2022.

Suella Braverman – Conservative candidate

Suella Braverman has a small following on Instagram but significant engagement – however, before the election was announced, she had not updated her page since November 2023, when she was removed as home secretary. During her tenure in the Home Office, her Instagram was packed with action shots in Margaret Thatcher-mode: her English Channel border crossing post has 144% IER, for example, here. Her X page is where she is most active, extremely strident with reposting and commenting on the issues of the day. Braverman launched her TikTok at the beginning of June.

Daisy Cooper – Liberal Democrat deputy leader

Daisy Cooper’s social media pages are relentlessly upbeat, and relentlessly on message. She uses her accounts purely as policy and campaigning portfolios. Her X handle is LibDemDaisy, and that sums up her content: selfies out and about in her constituency of St Albans. For a deep dive into Liberal Democrat life online, see our analysis, here.

Nigel Farage – Reform UK leader

Nigel Farage has a very strong social media presence and engagement rates and, crucially, he even has a significant platform on TikTok. His content is extremely reactive, with up-to-the-minute posts from the campaign trail and comic commentary on the other candidates – for example, he immediately jumped on the Rishi Sunak Sky gaffe on X, here.

By Emilie McMeekan, CORQ features director. Picture credit: Rishi Sunak, Daisy Cooper and Keir Starmer via Instagram