The logic of Likes and Shares: Content marketing lessons from the 2013 Australian national elections

The logic of Likes and Shares: Content marketing lessons from the 2013 Australian national elections

Marketing educators including Jonah Berger  confirm people “like” content when they want to show their networks that they have admirable values, and “share” when they want others to confirm their judgement on its importance.

Marketers must think about what is important to audiences when they tell their stories online. Two easy ways to get started on this are:

1. Look at what gets shared on news sites; and

2. Learn from the experts on public opinion; Australia’s 2013 election campaign directors.

The New York Times’ most popular stories today on Facebook relate to Obamacare and the news that Yoga may give women hip problems. Social responsibility values and health warnings are shared on social media networks.

But the list of the NYT’s “most emailed” articles is dominated by Lou Reed – four out of 10 articles were about his life, death and legacy; perhaps showing that readers want to show their rock and roll credentials and recognise their own New York icons.

It’s also easy to check out the action on Australia’s major media sites and do your own market analysis. www.smh.com.au prominently displays the most popular and most commented articles in a list. Herald readers today confirm the research – gay marriage articles are highly sharable as people want to show their approval of this socially progressive change.

The list of “most commented on” articles at the Herald is sharply different from the list of most popular, and dominated by partisan politics. Perhaps this reveals that much commentary is often by a small group of active writers who follow every twist and turn of political posturing.

The day-to-day stuff of politics is usually down on “likes” and “shares” lists – except during the 2013 election.

Both the major parties have spoken publicly about their major investment in “micro-targeting” voters and their success in turning partisan politics into a sharable story.

They used social media and analytics to explore and identify niche issues, develop the content to connect on these issues and keep it fresh.

Brian Loughnane, Federal Director of the Liberal Party’s winning campaign, recently told the National Press Club that their decision to focus on positive stories in the lead up to the election was crucial. This was probably very useful for the campaigners seeking to use social media networks to spread the Liberal/National message.

He said: “Social media was more important in this election than any previous one and the Liberal Party devoted a much greater proportion of our campaign resources to it than we have in the past. As a result we significantly outperformed Labor in social media.”

To give just a few examples:

  • Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party dominated Labor on Facebook. Tony Abbott’s Facebook Page Likes grew during the campaign by over 550% to achieve 258,830 Likes, compared to Kevin Rudd’s 127,476 Likes
  • The engagement rate for Tony Abbott’s Facebook Page was three times that of Kevin Rudd;
  • The Liberal Party released the first targeted Facebook Sharing App in an Australian campaign which had extensive reach. The targeted Sharing App reached 7.5 million Australians on Facebook; and
  • The Liberal Party’s YouTube channel received over 1.2 million views during the campaign period, compared to 289,000 for the ALP channel.”

Labor’s national secretary George Wright also had some relevant tips for anyone wanting to get the message out by way of micro targeting.

Like the Liberals, the ALP’s tips start with the need to invest in skilled staff and content development.

Wright said: “This type of campaigning requires widely accessible resources and many thousands of volunteers – but has a target audience of one.

“A year out from the 2013 campaign we significantly increased the resources dedicated to digital and good old fashioned face-to-face campaigning.

“In the hands of good local members, trained local organisers and their campaign teams, this investment I believe, made a material difference in a score of seats across the country.

“Since 2011 we have increased by more than 10 times the size of our campaigning email list of potential volunteers and donors.

“Back then, our most popular online material was attracting around 50,000 views – in 2013 we were achieving as many as 3 million.

“We increased the amount of campaign funds raised from small donors by more than thirteen times.

“Small online donors now contribute more than twice the campaign funds to Federal Labor than any individual union or corporate contributor.”

If we can overlook the parties continuing desire to score points against each other, there’s some enduring lessons here for Australian organisations looking to make their top issues popular content.

Firstly, work hard to identify the people, their concerns, their values that you believe will be interested in your story.

But for any business – for profit or non-profit – looking to build their networks, there’s one underlying message for everyone. Have a good story and tell it well; whether it’s about the future government, or your personal health.

People everywhere are still engaged with stories that surprise, inform and help them understand their humanity. And they respond to timely publishing, good writing, design and production.

(Image 1: Caterpillar Web Design)


Each week a staff member puts pen to paper to write about an aspect of content communication that speaks to them, and hopefully, informs you. This is a space where our passion for writing, learning and sharing information comes to shine.

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