Why nobody “likes” Ed Miliband

by Peter Goddard

Who likes Ed Miliband? Not the world of Facebook apparently. A quick look at each of the party leaders’ Facebook pages shows David Cameron out in front with 160,514 “likes”, Nick Clegg on 85,488 and Ed Miliband on 13,942.

It seems that Ed is trailing when it comes to the personal touch. Not that any of them are doing stratospherically well in comparison to some of Facebook’s most loved; for example Barack Obama clocks in with just under 26 million “likes” while Rhianna has a little over 54 million admirers.

OK, it’s hardly surprising that none of the leaders can touch the popularity of a US President or a foxy pop sensation, and posting exclusive pics of Ed Miliband in a boob tube probably isn’t the way forward, but these numbers do provide some idea of the potential benefits and audience available from a canny use of social media.

A quick visit to the Labour website indicates the party has some awareness of this. The site is well laid out and clean. It has a clear set of calls to action – it offers you options of joining, volunteering and donating most obviously.

Below this, it provides a neat set of active opportunities for the visitor including “protect pensioners” and “defend working families”.

It’s clear that some learnings from the social media side of things have been applied, demonstrated by the live feed of “recent actions” which shows us what other people are supporting and campaigning for.

The only problem is, Labour.org.uk is not a diverse social media site, it is a special interest site. Whilst they are useful, these functions are primarily preaching to the converted.

To reach a wider audience, Labour needs to achieve a similar result on a true social media site. And ‘a social media site’ in this case means Facebook.

Martin Lindstrom explains the importance of Zuckerberg’s baby in his book Brandwashing “How did it rise above all other social-networking sites… Quite simply, because it’s where everyone is.”

Whilst there may be regional variations to Facebook’s astonishing dominance, (NK.pl runs nearly neck-and-neck with Facebook in Poland), for the UK this holds true across every demographic.

This is good news for Labour. The network is in place, all that needs to be done is harness it.

And this is where things go awry.

On the face of it, the Labour website does everything right to draw their content onto Facebook (with bonus Twitter and email options thrown in). The site shows clearly-defined issues that give the user a chance to post to their website and let their friends know what they are fighting for. The Labour supporter faces a range of exciting options.

Great stuff. I am very keen to defend working families. My inner activist is already painting up a banner, although my lazy outer self would rather just click on the little ‘f’.

So I do that.

Meanwhile, on my facebook page, this is what appears…

This is a missed opportunity.

The power of social network marketing lies in exploiting the innate human need for social validation of the choices we make.

We may consider ourselves hardy individualists unaffected by peer pressure, but marketers know better and we dismiss this phenomenon at our peril.

Here comes the science. In a 2007 experiment, selected teenagers were played clips of songs and afterwards revealed how other users rated the same tunes, taking fMRI scans of their brains in the process.  When the listener enjoyed a song and discovered it was popular, the caudate nucleus, associated with reward, showed activity. On the other hand, participants told that their opinion of the song was at odds with popular consensus, had scans indicating activity in the areas of the brain associated with anxiety.

Now look back at what we created by clicking the ‘f’. It’s a link. It doesn’t say whether I liked the link, or hated it, just that I wanted to share it.

Although it is worth mentioning I had the opportunity to comment on the link as well, this places a burden on the user to declare their feelings, and anything that means your customer has to do their own work in order to make a sale is to be avoided.

Compare this result of clicking on a similar ‘f’ on a different site.

See the difference?

Immediately it is apparent to my network that I approve of this content. What’s more, there is both a headline and some description that provides enough information for, crucially, other members of my network to either decide they want more or, even better, immediately “like” the content as well. This is how the ripples of a social network spread.

Even the link is inadequate from the Labour site. I clicked on a link to defend working families, but the link I’m sharing simply says “cost of living”.

Well, maybe that’s just a poor example, so let’s go back to our smorgasbord of policies and issues and click to show our support for “end rail rip-offs by capping fares”. Now we have this on our page…

Oh. Now I have two links to the same page and not only has Labour failed to help me tell all my friends about my specific preferences, they’ve made my wall look odd and caused me to look like I’ve stupidly shared the same thing twice.

Not good.

So after a strong first impression, it soon becomes apparent that insufficient thought has gone into exactly how and why social networks can successfully transmit messages for Labour. Overall, on closer examination, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Labour has succumbed to the desire for shiny things, creating a very attractive website that appears to be social-network-friendly but that when it comes to the crunch, fails to deliver.

These aren’t difficult problems to remedy if Labour are serious about utilising social networks and there are huge benefits to be had for relatively little cost.

But if you don’t pay attention, it’s frighteningly easy to trip up. Even careful designers can come unstuck, as can be seen in the “Better off with Ken” logo which, whilst his Facebook page loads, crops at just the wrong point….

The lesson is clear – Labour’s approach to social networks require thought, commitment and authenticity. At the moment, despite some neat ideas, it’s just not there.

Peter Goddard is a sales and marketing consultant

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10 Responses to “Why nobody “likes” Ed Miliband”

  1. john reid says:

    Labour has always been suspisious of marketing since the 40’s, During the mid 80’s and the rebranding there was resistance, not becuase even the most staunchest critic, didn’t feel we needed to change but, that it was degrading to bring politics down to soundbites, And we’ve fallen behind now, Not justbecause while the Tories were in oppostion they mobilised the blogsphere, with conservative home or Order-Order, Appealing to Sniping that could highlight what they were hinting at with out having to face the wrath of the moral majority, and while trying to connect to People who fee that the last governemtn was out of touch as not controlling the banks or that w at the same time we had spending out of control, A slogan on facebook wouldn’t persuade them we were A governemnt in waiting,

    alot of this is admirable,Also setting the agenda is Inportant, As pointed out On parlaiment channela covering of the 92 election yesterday, the only 2 issues that teh public thought we were better than the toires on was NHS and education,While in 2010 It was awa nd order adn Pensions, Even the tores were more popyular with the public than us on the NHs last year, with their promise not to change it.

    We’ve gained the initative with the NHS as the Tories are now tinkering with it, Law and order agian the Tories have done themselves no dfaours witht heir cuts, But I odn’t thinkwe were thought of the party of Law and order in 2010 ,due to having inncoent peoples DNA on a database or Naming and shaming those arrested yet not found guilty of rape or 90 day detetnion, but our investment in police, It’s inportant we keep the tag the party of law and order without forgetting why we gained that tag (we invested in police) it’s also inportant we keep up the attack on the Tories on their NHS changes.

  2. PlatoSays says:

    Erm – whilst I agree with everything in this article – here’s what happened when I clicked on the Twitter share icon

    Why nobody “likes” Ed Miliband http://bit.ly/Ikzfvo via @AddThis

    Lots of learning to be applied on this site too!

  3. PlatoSays says:

    What just posted is what my Firefox browser/Tweetdeck said… your website is resolving an issue that isn’t sorted on other platforms.

  4. madasafish says:

    The article title says one thing and then the actual article goes all techie.

    I am afraid Ed looks like a geek and this article was apparently written by one as well – I apologise to peter Goddard but is it not just a little navel gazing.

    If Ed acted and looked and spoke like a “normal” human being – Cameron and Clegg do a better job – then he would have more “likes”.

    After all : look at Bill Gates. For all his wealth, good deeds and charitable giving, he just looks and talks like a geek – and stirs up strong antipathy.

    Humans find it difficult to empathise with geeks. Everyone knows that – except the Party which chooses one as Leader. See also Hague…

  5. Clint Spencer says:

    See also Hague…. IDS, Foot, The vamp (guess).

    Ed couldn’t win anything outside of the loyalists.

  6. Matthew says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, but both Cameron and Clegg were leaders of their respective parties during the last general election, while Ed Miliband wasn’t. They both have an established network of followers on Facebook which they built up during a period when the public was at its maximum point of engagement with politics. Ed has not yet had that opportunity.

    Whatever the merits or otherwise of Ed Miliband, it is pretty dumb to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of Labour’s social media strategy based on a false comparison of numbers.

  7. tony chesney says:

    Ed Milliband is sincere and committed to do the best he can for the people;this can be said for ,hopefully ,all Labour M>P/s;he has to show leadership qualities; he hammared Cameron on the NHS and taxation but so far he has only been reactive;he needs to be proactive

  8. peter g says:

    That’s a good point Matthew. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem either. How about this from Michael dugher regarding Bradford, “I think this was the first byelection in history fought and even won on social media. Our candidate was knocking on doors the old fashioned way.”

  9. madasafish says:

    “sincere and committed” does not make people a success..

    See Neil Kinnock, William Hague, Michael Foot etc..

    “Leadership” means leading in the correct direction…

  10. ex-Labour voter says:

    So, not many people like Ed Miliband on Facebook.

    Not long ago, there was a story in the media about a woman who had loads of Facebook friends. But she posted an entry which said she was going to kill herself.

    Not one of those ‘friends’ did anything to dissuade her and she carried out her threat.

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