The article’s lede is the key point, and there’s no further analysis of how or why the campaigns used social media. But if I were to guess, Labor was trying to use Facebook to persuade voters, and the Liberals were using it as a marketing/branding exercise – i.e. a form of content marketing to build brand awareness & trust.
Now of course, a few Facebook videos is not the reason that the Liberals won or Labor lost. But as an indicator, it tells us that one side was (possibly) far more effective at using social media than the other (not withstanding the truism that “views” are a vanity metric
Morrison was derisively named an “ad man” by Labor, but advertising companies use Facebook (and social media advertising generally, but mainly Facebook) to build brand loyalty. This is especially the case for big brands.
There’s more and more research that shows that Facebook helps build brand loyalty. The more a person becomes voluntarily involved with a brand, through whatever channel (website, face-to-face, newsletter or journal, social media, etc), the more they will be interested in recommending and revisiting the brand. This behaviour becomes self-reinforcing and leads to attitude change, and ultimately “purchase intent”.
So here we have two different tactical uses for Facebook advertising:
- The Trump tactic: buying vast numbers of donors
- The Morrison tactic: brand advertising and building “loyalty”/affinity.
Both of these tactics should be added to the campaign toolkit for unions. And they can both be used together.
Firstly, unions should use Facebook to acquire new members
. Back in 2014 on my blog I asked: does your union know what it costs to sign up a new member?
Even today, when I ask, most union leaders can’t give me a hard figure (“a few hundred dollars”, “I’m not sure”, etc). But online, you can calculate the cost of a signing up a new member down to the cent. And with members having a life-time value of around $3000 or more, would you sign up a new member if it cost you $100 or $300 in online advertising?
Now, this kind of membership recruitment is easier said than done. It means having a proper digital suite of tools, and staff who can use and understand them. It means having a digital membership form that can track UTM codes (what are UTM codes?
). It means having a CRM or membership system that allows you to track potential members or prospects, as well as store the volumes of digital data that is the lifeblood of online advertising. It means having an outbound call-centre. It means having structures and policies in place to handle pre-existing issues. It means ensuring that your structures and organising plans can adapt to both digital and face-to-face or other other cold recruitment your union does, by providing relevant digital leads (potential members) to your organisers to contact.
Secondly, your union can build and maintain loyalty with existing members. The result: better retention.
Big companies care about brand loyalty because it means they don’t continually have to spend to acquire the same customer, and because it makes other sales marketing more efficient. Brand advertising (as opposed to advertising a specific product or promotion to drive sales) is intended to build loyalty and trust for the brand overall, so that when faced with competing brands, a customer buys the brand they’re most loyal to.
Few unions would have a budget for the kind of large-scale mass-media brand advertising that ASX500 companies engage in. Furthermore, union membership is more or less a “niche” service – relevant to workers only in specific industries, workplaces or geographies.
Facebook (and digital advertising, e.g. via Google Ads) is therefore both affordable and scalable.
Should your union run ads promoting the benefits of membership to its existing members?
I think the answer is “yes”. There’s lots of research that shows that the more interactions a person has with a company or service, the more likely they are to continue the service. This is especially the case for membership or subscription services, like gyms, magazine subscriptions and the like.
The same is true for unions.
Back in 2008 or 2009, when I worked at the NTEU, we observed that new members who spoke to an organiser or a local elected rank-and-file official, or attended a union event, within a month of joining were far more likely to remain members after 12 months. Those who had no interaction with the union were significantly more likely to resign after 12 months.
Engaging with members via Facebook ads is a very “light touch” version of this. Effectively, you’re reminding members of the value of union membership.
Unions therefore need to post unique content, reflect their members’ profile, be active and open in discussions, and helpful with practical matters in order to promote interaction. Unions should also promote not only “values” messaging, but the tangible benefits of membership too (yes, even the dreaded Union Shopper).
Takeaway. While traditional media ads has a stronger impact on brand awareness, social media communication strongly influences brand image, and the reality is that most unions will be able to afford Facebook advertising and see a real return, compared to spending on newspaper or TV ads.