Social media giant Facebook is urging every adult in the UK to register to vote ahead of the general election on 7 May.
A message appeared on the news feeds of every British based user over the age of 18. The advert then directed people to the Electoral Commission website where they were able to register online.The initiative coincides with National Voter Registration Day.
This is the first general election for which people in the UK have been able to register online to vote.
Thursday’s voter registration reminder will be followed by a targeted advertising campaign from the Electoral Commission, run on Facebook to reach young people who will be 18 by 7 May as part of a concerted effort to increase the number of young people registered to vote.
There 35 million people using Facebook in the UK every month, more than voted in the 2010 General Election – 29.6 million.
In addition to voter registration prompts for everyone of eligible voting age on Facebook, voters will be able to add a ‘Registered to Vote’ “Life Event” to their Facebook Timeline.
Facebook anticipates huge volumes of discussion ahead of the General Election. In 2014, the Scottish Independence Referendum was the most discussed topic on the platform all year, and a five week period running up to the vote saw over 10 million mentions of the referendum on Facebook.
Studies show that Facebook conversations can lead to increased voter turnout; in 2010 over 300,000 Americans went to vote having seen friends on Facebook share that they’d voted.
Facebook’s Elisabeth Linder said, “We’re seeing that many of users are already using the platform to have their say on who should govern this country after 7 May. We expect the election to be one of the most talked about topics on Facebook of 2015, and we hope that through partnerships like this one with the Electoral Commission, we can make sure those conversations lead to higher turnout.”
Alex Robertson, Director of Communication at the Electoral Commission, added, “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Facebook again to reach those who will be eligible to vote on polling day. We saw at the Scottish Independence Referendum that young people are passionate and engaged about the issues that affect their lives. It’s vital that we continue to reach them on platforms like Facebook with information that’s accessible to them. Anyone not yet registered, should visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote now.”
In the UK, Facebook has become a major forum for political discussion and debate. The Conservative Party, Labour, the Liberal Democrat Party, UKIP, the SNP and the Green Party have a combined audience of over 1.2 million connections on Facebook – many more than their combined 530,000 members.
According to the BBC, the Tories are spending over £100,000 a month on Facebook advertising, dwarfing Labour’s £10,000.