21st April 2015

2015 General Election, UK’s youth & social media: is your target in range?


vote here

Today marks the final day that we can register to vote in the 2015 general election. And, in the final week, the Electoral Commission really stepped up in the battle to get young people voting.

As a 20-something preparing to vote for the first time, I’ve been really impressed with the change in the way politicians are targeting the UK’s youth. Our tech-savvy millennials are throwing up newer and more innovative platforms, making engaging with the younger generation a constant challenge.

In 2010, just 44 per cent of 18-24 year olds in the UK voted in the general election. That’s 10 per cent less than the overall youth turnout for 2014’s Scottish Independence Referendum. Why?

After opening up the voting to 16 and 17 year olds, the Scottish Independence Referendum breached a key stronghold for the Scottish youth by jumping on the social media bandwagon. Over seven million tweets were sent during the campaign, contributing to a 75 per cent turnout for 16-17 year olds.

It’s clear that a genuine understanding of the demographic is essential when trying to reach younger audiences. Previous attempts at reaching the 18-24 year olds have fallen by the wayside due to an over reliance on traditional media channels. But, 2015 is set to be the most digital general election yet so it’s time to bite the bullet and meet us younger voters behind enemy lines.

In the lead up to today, the Electoral Commission has done just this. It’s ditched the traditional outputs and adopted a fresher approach, creatively infiltrating the communication channels of the younger generations.

Michael Abbot, Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Commission, said:

“The Commission continues to use different technologies and platforms to get its registration message across to students and young people. This is the first time that we’ve used mobile advertising, and our continued partnership with Facebook builds on the successful campaigns we ran for last year’s referendum and on National Voter Registration Day this year.”

social media community


Twitter feeds of 15 million users have been encouraging voter registration through timeline reminders and the hashtag #RegisterToVote. Meanwhile, Facebook broadcast a ‘use your age wisely’ campaign which played on student focused references and urged users to get registered. Even the cast of Channel 4’s Gogglebox, a favourite programme among 18-24 year olds, got involved as the reality stars explained the importance of voting in a 30 second TV advert.

This change in tactics seems to be working for the Electoral Commission. In the last month, 30 per cent of voter registrations were from 18-24 year olds and, according to research by UK company Brandwatch, more than two million political conversations have taken place over social media.

It remains to be seen whether voter registrations will translate into votes in May but I’m impressed with the Electoral Commission’s conquer of social media. Its victory with the notoriously tricky youth population has set a strong example to the rest of the UK and I conclude that others should follow suit. As key demographics retreat from traditional media, businesses need to adapt their own tactics in order to keep their target in range. If David Cameron and Ed Milliband can tweet then I guess anyone can!

david cameron tweets


By Hannah Todd, Account Executive (B2B)