According to the major political parties, Facebook is the key to winning the UK general election. However, with only 9% of users open to marketing and advertising on the social media channel, have campaign managers missed the mark?

As the campaigning for the UK general election starts to ramp up, so does the expenditure on Facebook Ads. Sources believe that Labour are looking to match the Conservatives’ large £1m social media budget to sway potential voters.

Labour insiders who worked for former party leader Ed Miliband are adamant that the 2015 UK general election was won and lost on Facebook. They believe that the Conservatives discreetly used their bigger digital advertising budget to target undecided voters in key marginal seats.

The Electoral Commission, the UK elections watchdog, found that the Conservatives spent a jaw-dropping £1.2m during the 2015 general election on Facebook Ads. In comparison to Labour’s £160,000 and the Liberal Democrats’ £22,000 budgets.

However, despite the claims from Labour party sources, I believe SMS marketing could be the key to election victory. Here’s why…

Do Facebook Ads work?

Research carried out for our recent white paper indicated that there are 30 million Facebook users in the UK. That’s an extraordinary number of potential voters just a click away. Yet, despite Facebook’s accessibility and size, the question still remains: do users want to see advertising on their feeds?

Our white paper research also indicated that only 9% of Facebook users are open to marketing and advertising from businesses, organisations and local political candidates via the social media channel. Furthermore, in terms of its performance, response rates on Facebook stand at 1%-5%. That’s extremely low considering the magnitude of a UK general election.

In the aftermath of the 2015 general election, one Labour source said: “we mistook getting lots of likes as an effective [digital] campaign”. This is a common misconception small businesses also highlighted in our recent article.

Then there’s the issue of whether your political ad will even be seen. In such a busy day and age, consumers tend to scroll past them in a matter of seconds. In fact, there’s no real guarantee that your target audience will even be online while your Facebook Ad is live.

Potentially, your Facebook Ad could cost you a considerable amount of money without serving its purpose. As a campaign manager, is that a risk you’re willing to take?

SMS marketing is the solution

Text messaging is cost-effective and proven. Although Facebook users globally spend an average of 40 minutes per day on the site, it’s just a drop in the ocean compared to mobile phone usage. On average, a young person can spend up to five hours a day on their device.

Additionally, an average of 98% of text messages are opened, with 90% of those being read within the first three minutes.

In terms of the audience, there are over 33.67 million mobile users in the UK that have opted in to receive text messages. That’s over three million people greater than Facebook’s audience.

The interaction rates also make good reading for SMS marketing as a channel as well, with an average of 32% of promotional and informative texts sparking a response. That means that your campaign message is almost guaranteed to be seen, digested, and more than likely responded to.

Sure, you may still argue that you require the data to contact potential constituents via mobile. However, there is a solution to this as well.

Text “TRUMP”

You may or may not have seen, but in Donald Trump’s election victory, there was a subtle but monumentally important piece of marketing going on.

In every television appearance, you’d always see: Text “Trump” to 88022 in the shot. Whether a member of the public supports you or not, there’s always something quite intriguing about a SMS short code and keyword. After all, curiosity did kill the cat!

This potent example was a highly effective means to build up an engaged mobile opt-in list. Donald Trump then used these mobile numbers to text them about key talks taking place in their local area, as well as feeding them with pivotal information about his plans – should he be elected. Pair this example with the enticing engagement rates SMS provides, and you have an extremely effective means of persuading partial voters.

Time to implement

In the weeks to come, try using a SMS short code and keyword on your campaign trail. Whether it’s ensuring that they are in the shot when you feature on any local news reports, or incorporating it as a part of your Facebook Ad strategy.

The underlining point is that SMS marketing works, and could make a huge difference in defining the outcome of the general election on 8th June. So, if you’re serious about reaching local constituencies, take a leaf out of Trump’s book and use the UK’s fastest growing marketing channel today.

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