Politicians take to Facebook to boost ‘likes’ ahead of general election

Facebook has advised political parties about attracting voters and expects interest in the social media networking site to sharply increase with the general election looming.

Data released by the networking giant shows Sinn Féin has the largest amount of followers — some 76,936 — outnumbering all of the other major political parties combined.

Facebook will today launch a “check the register campaign”, encouraging its 2.2m users in Ireland to check they can vote ahead of polling day.

Elizabeth Linder, the site’s politics and government specialist, said the scale with which politicians were now able to connect with ordinary people, particularly compared to the last general election, was exciting.

Last year, elections were the most talked about issue on Facebook globally. In Ireland, the same-sex marriage referendum was the most talked about subject in the year, followed by the refugee crisis and the conflict in Syria. The British elections were the fourth most talked about topic here.

Ms Linder noted politicians were increasingly now doing question-and-answer sessions on Facebook.

Politicians take to Facebook to boost ‘likes’ ahead of general election

Finance Minister Michael Noonan used the network for a Q&A session after the budget last October. But while other leaders in other countries, including in Europe, have used live streaming with users, Taoiseach Enda Kenny as well as other political leaders here have yet to connect with Facebook users in this way.

Facebook’s Dublin headquarters confirmed it has been training and advising major political parties as well as individual politicians about how to best utilise their pages and messages, ahead of the election.

During the 2011 election, Sinn Féin had no Facebook followers, it now has almost 77,000 followers. This compares to Fine Gael’s 13,666 and Fianna Fáil’s 11,391.

The eight biggest political parties in Ireland, between them, now have 142,000 followers. Ms Linder said likes on Facebook pages were almost modern endorsements or votes of support.

Meanwhile, the networking website will today launch a campaign to encourage users and followers to make sure they are registered to vote in the upcoming election, or to sign up with the supplementary register.

There have already been more than 1.5m interactions related to the election on the networking platform since November, the company says. But officials were unwilling to release the age, location or times when users had become most involved with issues online.

The company said it will release regular data in the run up to the election, exploring the impact of political campaigns on Facebook and trends in public discussion.

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