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July 12, 2019

Social Media: The Newest Political Battlefield

With the NZ local elections fast approaching, candidates have begun their 2019 campaign through building a social media presence and engaging with their followers. This year’s election is looking to be more interesting than usual as we delve into the effects of social media throughout an election campaign.

October 12, 2019 marks when the local authority elections will take place for city and district councils, regional council and district health boards. As the local authority election turnout has been declining in many areas of New Zealand since the 1980s, the Electoral Commission will be running an enrolment campaign #Vote2019NZ to lift nationwide voter turnout (to greater than 50 per cent) as well as increase people’s engagement with their local council.

With social media now at the forefront of election campaigns and political information being readily available through social networking sites, it has been questioned if:

1. It’s important for candidates to have a social media presence

2. If having a social media strategy matters

3. Whether the usage of social media can be an indicator for predicting election outcomes

Political Environment And Social Media

Social media operates 24/7 and response time expectations are demanding, especially throughout the duration of an election where it’s crucial to monitor what is being said, by whom as well as understanding the sentiment that goes with it.

It is suggested there is a statistically significant relationship between the size of online social networks, voting behaviours and election results. With the recent disparity between political polls internationally and in New Zealand, it has raised questions about the accuracy of polling surveys and whether they should be paid attention at all.

Nowadays, government bodies and agencies view social media engagement as a ‘no choice’ situation and the power of social media allows these government bodies to give responses in real-time. Although Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being used by political parties and candidates in their electoral campaigns, candidates are recommended to start their campaign strategy early to ensure they establish a strong social presence that can be maintained for the duration of the campaign. Having this set up will assist with building rapport and trust with their followers.

Is a high level of online interest and engagement indicative of wider electoral support?

Online social media environments present new challenges and profoundly different experiences. As there is an increasing emphasis on social media being a powerful online marketing channel, it can be much more complex than what is seen on the surface. Each social media channel has their own algorithm, determining how frequent and vast any content gets shared. Most channels design their algorithm in a way to reward extremism to entice the user to stay on the platform and potentially influence the user opinion of a particular topic.  Due to the vast amounts of content and media items available throughout an election campaign, it is important to stay across these conversations as well as monitor media bias with social media monitoring.

Polling And Social Media

It has been said public opinion could be better analysed from social media rather than just opinion polls. Considered to be outdated, opinion polls are conducted by large, successful organisations who are predominantly interested in protecting their reputations, and anxiously anticipate their electoral predictions to resemble their estimates. The head of Strategy at a top Kiwi research firm has acknowledged social media is a more valid way to assess voter habits than the polling surveys conducted by research companies.[1] This is due to the sentiment being measured off observations of conversations across social media which can be significantly different than provided in polling surveys. So, if politicians are consistently looking to appeal to the masses and win points in polls, they run the risk of losing the interest of the key constituents they need to appeal to in order to win their campaign.

Is There A Better Way?

With polling and betting markets missing the mark with several elections, experts are progressively turning to social media to judge voter sentiment on a larger scale. Our Mediaportal can provide coverage of key New Zealand media coverage related to the election campaign and can help determine breaking news and voter sentiment. Being across this data can be beneficial as it has been seen in the recent Australian Federal election, where an unexpected victory from the Coalition contradicted weeks of almost identical opinion polls predicting a Labor win.  Other notable examples of pollsters getting their predictions wrong include Brexit – where opinion polls showed majority of voters in favour of remaining a member of the European Union, and the victory of Donald Trump where the national polling average was in favour of Hillary Clinton by 3.1 per cent[2], Trumps active social media engagement resulted in his election victory.

In the 2017 NZ election, Jacinda Ardern’s age, gender and keen use of social media livened up the election campaign where there has been a long run of politicians considered dull or out of touch with young and female voters. [3] Starting with a strong social media following, Jacindamania was ignited. Adding to this, Jacinda’s confident and mediagenic personality has set her up to be a leader younger voters can relate to and has resulted in her being the most watched New Zealand politician on Twitter during her electoral campaign.[4] She continues to have a strong social presence following as she directly connects with her audience, proving the power of social media.

The Power Of Social Media

The benefits of any social network – real or digital – come from the quality of relationships with members of the network rather than the volume of members within it. As younger generations reach voting ages and social media becomes even more universal, it will be necessary for democratic institutions and practices to revisit and restyle their political communications to tie in with the interests and discourse of contemporary young culture. By analysing the election campaign coverage from multiple angles such as share of voice, media bias, candidate promises and the effectiveness of a campaign strategy it will provide the necessary information required for organisations to make informed decisions about the proposed policies and understand what’s driving the agenda across Councils.


If you would like to keep up to date for the duration of the local election campaign, our daily curated briefing can ensure you’re across all campaign announcements, policy updates and share of voice. If you would like to learn more about the services we can offer, get in touch with our team to discuss your needs.


[1] https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12238919

[2] https://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/hillary-clinton-leading-donald-trump-by-3-1-percentage-points-polls-average-3731849/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/09/20/how-one-womans-likes-tweets-and-vibes-threaten-the-ruling-rightists-of-new-zealand/#46694557ca94

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/09/20/how-one-womans-likes-tweets-and-vibes-threaten-the-ruling-rightists-of-new-zealand/#46694557ca94

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Stay on top of the federal election coverage

During an election, the volume of media coverage on political promises and topical debates increases. This can have a positive or negative impact on your organisation.

With our comprehensive federal election briefing, you can monitor and track relevant media data to gain insight into the federal election.

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Whitepaper
Your insight into the federal election

During an election, the volume of media coverage on political promises and topical debates increases greatly, which can have a significant impact on your organisation. As such, it’s imperative to monitor and track relevant media data so you can understand who’s saying what about your organisation, your competitors, your industry, and any other topic that’s important to you and your organisation.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published anti-greenwashing guidelines for businesses making environmental and sustainability claims. Despite these efforts, media coverage of greenwashing, particularly focusing on senate inquiries and regulatory court cases against major offenders, continues to expose brands and industries stretching the truth in their sustainability messaging. This exposure is causing a growing disconnect between consumers and corporations, as audiences increasingly call out misleading practices and question the authenticity of corporate sustainability claims.Isentia’s sister brand, Pulsar conducted recent research exploring media and public discourse around sustainability. Part of this report examines how greenwashing is covered in the news and on social media, particularly in relation to the broader sustainability discourse. Let’s investigate those themes in more depth here.

Social media data is decreasing while online news activity re-engages, indicating incident-led conversations. Regulatory bodies like the ACCC, and state and federal governments are tackling greenwashing by identifying major corporate offenders and their misleading actions, such as 'recyclable' packaging, carbon credit misuse, lack of transparency in fossil fuel investments, and exploitation of government climate programs. Audience conversations often align with news coverage on these matters.
The term in Australia particularly gained traction among social audiences around November 2022 when the UN called out the Australian government for allowing the use of carbon offsets in corporate emissions reduction strategies. News of the apparent collusion between the government and large corporations has caused public faith and trust in both to dwindle. As these stories emerge, Australia's positive sustainability impact on the international stage is significantly undermined.

https://twitter.com/janegarcia/status/1591662729664004099

When we look at which sectors are most discussed within the greenwashing topic, energy, finance, and food take the lead.

Much of the discussion regarding the energy and finance sectors emphasises their interconnectedness, particularly the investment by financial institutions, including super funds, in environmentally harmful industries. Despite some super funds claiming to offer options that avoid unsustainable investments, reports have revealed that they collectively hold millions of shares in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many industries are being criticised for using carbon credits, such as REDD+ offsets, to appear more sustainable. Advertising, marketing, and public relations also play a significant role in promoting misleading sustainability initiatives, thereby contributing to greenwashing. However, stakeholders are aware that the advertising and communications industries have a huge impact on the profitability and success of an industry or product. The European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint classification system, for example, has been criticised by Australia’s wool industry for being unfair to wool products and for greenwashing. This, they argue, not only undermines the pursuit of a green transition within fashion but also damages a vital industry.

Mercer stands out as a most mentioned brand within the topic of greenwashing. This is due to ASIC pursuing a civic penalty case against them which alleged they misled members about its sustainability investments. This is groundbreaking for audiences to witness as it would be the first time the consumer watchdog has taken a company to court for alleged greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/BillHareClimate/status/1630404986130808833

Much of the conversation focuses on misinformation and lack of transparency in communication and marketing. Certifications like Fair Trade are being questioned, particularly for products like chocolate, and eco-certification for farmed salmon. It particularly muddies the waters for political figures when they get entangled with brands coming under scrutiny for such greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/JosieMcskimming/status/1750987402691362858

Furthermore, some companies feature in the media conversation due to their involvement in a senate enquiry initiated in March 2023, with a report expected by June 28th this year. 

Analysis of the ANZ reveals a shift in mindset, with consumers emphasising individual actions for solutions like composting or guerilla campaigns on mislabelled environmentally friendly salmon products. Grassroots and individual activism leading to actions like divestment from conflicting companies. Community groups like uni student clubs showcase how groups with shared values and experiences can make noise and incite change with how universities invest. However, there are ongoing debates as to whether it’s the role of sectors like higher education or Super Funds to prioritise the environmental implications of their decisions.

The rise in curiosity around greenwashing highlights the growing consumer demand for transparency and genuine sustainability from brands. As regulatory scrutiny and public awareness increase, brands must ensure their sustainability claims are genuine or face reputation damage.

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Blog
The Eco-Spin Cycle: how brand’s sustainability claims come out in the wash

Regulators are cracking down on corporate greenwashing, but what does media discussion reveal about its impact on brand-consumer relations?

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

This dynamic environment demands that brands and institutions elevate their standards in messaging and actions, holding them accountable like never before. For professionals in the PR & Comms realm, it is imperative to grasp not only how sustainability is being discussed but also the potential pitfalls, such as greenwashing, and gain a profound understanding of the diverse audiences receiving these messages.

Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

-Unraveling trends in the sustainability conversation

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Blog
Sustainability: Mapping the Media & Public Conversations

From accusations of greenwashing to the role of misinformation, we explore the comms landscape around sustainability.

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