Labour overtakes Conservatives in social media war

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Labour overtook the Conservatives in the social media war over the last week, with posts from the party's official accounts on both Facebook and Twitter receiving more shares and likes on average.

A Press Association analysis of posts from the main official accounts between May 9 and May 16 suggests social media users are now responding more positively to Labour - with posts on the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn pages on Twitter and Facebook averaging more shares and positive reactions across both platforms than any other party.

The Conservative Party had previously averaged 105 more likes or loves per post on Facebook than Labour, and Theresa May had averaged 500 shares per post more than Jeremy Corbyn on Facebook, according to PA's study of posts from the first three weeks of the campaign.

But the latest data shows Labour overtook the Tories on all fronts, with users more likely to like and share posts from Labour and Jeremy Corbyn than the Conservatives and Theresa May, on average.

Labour averaged 112 more positive reactions per post on Facebook over the period measured, while Mr Corbyn averaged more than 1,000 extra shares per post.

:: Labour hone their message

The early weeks of the campaign saw the two main parties drawing clear battle lines in terms of how they define the election. Whereas the Conservative Party sought to pitch the election as a clash of personalities between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit, Labour preferred to focus on policy issues, such as healthcare, policing and education.

However, Labour's messaging over the last week has become more focused and aggressive, according to the analysis, with the number of posts which mention the campaign slogan "for the many" increasing by 4% on Facebook and 9% on Twitter.

Labour posts about policy issues increased slightly from 20% of the total to 24%, and posts mentioning either of the party leaders also rose marginally from 19% to 22%.

But neither the Labour Party nor Jeremy Corbyn mentioned Brexit in their posts on social media at any point across the week.

By contrast, the Conservative Party increased its messaging around Brexit from 20% of posts across Facebook and Twitter to almost a third (30%).

However, the party's posts did not mention the NHS or police at any point. Schools were mentioned just once, in a promotional post for a "telephone townhall" in which Mrs May answered questions on Facebook Live, which broadcast on Monday.

:: The leadership battle

Mentions of either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn by the Conservatives increased from 75% to more than four out of every five posts (84%) across Facebook and Twitter.

The only Facebook post by the Conservative party not to mention either of the party leaders was a request for people to follow the Conservatives' new Instagram account, although it featured three pictures of Theresa May.

With an ever-increasing number of people active on social media, party leaders are each expected to appear on Facebook Live before the election to take questions from voters.

Mrs May made her first appearance on Facebook Live on Monday, but Jeremy Corbyn ambushed the broadcast with a question, challenging the Prime Minister to a live debate.

The clip he posted of the intervention to his Facebook page was liked almost 60,000 times, more than any post by any other party or leader on Facebook since the election was called on April 18.

Footage of a voter challenging Theresa May over disability benefits also proved popular for Labour, as did video of a TV broadcast filmed by Ken Loach, the manifesto launch and footage of the Labour leader meeting grime music star Jme.

Messages attacking Labour or Jeremy Corbyn still proved to be the most popular for the Conservatives. Seven out of ten of the most popular posts on Facebook and Twitter attacked the Labour party leader, the Labour manifesto or a member of the proposed Labour cabinet.

Labour's top Facebook post, featuring Ken Loach's short film about Jeremy Corbyn, was shared more than 10,000 times.

A picture attacking Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell was the most-shared post by the Conservatives' Facebook page, with more than 6,000 shares.