The U.K. General Election on TikTok Has a Clear Labour Majority

Users of the hottest new shortform video app don’t do politics often, but when they do, it’s for Labour

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker/TikTok

Polls are now open across the United Kingdom, but social media never sleeps. While much of the focus has been on key digital platforms for parties like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, there has been another place that has engaged with the political discourse, albeit in quirkier way: TikTok.

For those that don’t know, the Chinese-owned shortform video sharing app has been a sensation in the last two years. Its (often young) userbase posts short videos under a minute long to the app, which immerses viewers in an endless stream of videos. Much of the content is based around replicable memes, using standard filters, and set to some of the world’s most popular music. In short, it’s about as far away from stump speeches and suits and ties as you can get.

Using data collated exclusively for FFWD by TikTok analysis firm Pentos on Wednesday, we’ve managed to track how the conversation around the election is playing out on TikTok. And unsurprisingly, given the demographics of the app, left-leaning politics dominates.

None of the major political party leaders, or the parties themselves, have accounts on the app. But there are a committed number of people interacting and discussing politics on TikTok nonetheless, using the key method of communication on the app: hashtags.

Hashtags are used to stream videos into different silos, and to surface them for users through TikTok’s algorithm. Many of these take the form of challenges, another key component of TikTok: every day, the app chooses a particular challenge to highlight. On Tuesday, it was #yogi, which challenged users to strike a yoga pose in an odd place. Such videos have seen nearly 100 million views.

There have been a handful of new posts on the #voteconservative hashtag since Monday, including this one, which is a repost of a section of the Tories’ Love Actually pastiche.

There are others that are anti-Corbyn which don’t use the hashtag, however. This one borrows a TikTok meme of using Google Translate to get Alexa to say “Jeremy Corbyn carrots one hundred” in Welsh — which sounds like “Jeremy Corbyn moron cunt”.

By contrast, #votelabour added 127 videos in three days, far more than the Conservatives. Just 27 videos have ever felt the need to promote the incumbent political party on TikTok, while 440 separate videos promote Labour over the life of the app.

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker, data from Pentos

#votelabour videos have 1.8 million views over their lifetime, while #voteconservative can only lay claim to a paltry 53,470 views.

It’s also interesting to look at how the two different political leaders fare on the app. While Johnson has more than twice the number of videos, views and likes on the app — likely due to his position as prime minister putting him more in the public eye — there is a noted drop in the comparative comments and shares of #borisjohnson videos.

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker, data from Pentos

While #borisjohnson has 2.25 times the number of videos, 2.1 times the number of views on those videos, and 2.26 times the number of likes on the videos, the Johnson videos have only twice the number of comments. There are more comments per video on the #jeremycorbyn TikToks than #borisjohnson. Likewise, when it comes to shares, Johnson has only 1.5 times the number of shares on videos under his hashtag compared to Corbyn. The “shy Tory” effect extends even to this new social platform.

The pro-Labour videos harness the power of the app, including the ability to duet with others, like this video that outlines reasons to vote Labour, and the sort of people who would be disproportionately affected by Conservative policies.

To be clear, we are talking about infintessimally small numbers. The two million views TikToks using the #ukpolitics hashtag have ever had in their lifetime is 0.04% of the number of views videos on the app using the #beauty tag have attained. Videos using seven key hashtags relating to British politics, including Brexit, were seen 1.7 million times in the last 24 hours. Beauty videos were seen 10 times more often in the same time period.

But these are the first signs of something coming around the corner in terms of connecting with the electorate in the future.

If this general election campaign showed that U.K. political campaigners had caught up with the power of Facebook and Twitter for the first real time, and made their first forays into set piece advertising on YouTube, it was a demonstration of just how far the political classes lag behind everyone else. Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and Twitter in 2006.

For a semblance of how long ago that was, Boris Johnson was sacked from the Conservative front bench for lying about his love life the same year Mark Zuckerberg rolled Facebook out onto campuses across the United States. The same year YouTube launched, Jeremy Corbyn was praising a speech by the Iranian leader that called for Israel to be wiped from the world map. If a week is a long time in politics, 15 or more years is a lifetime.

Many of those posting their favourite memes imploring people to vote (mostly Labour) were likely not even born when both those events happened. But they will be the time the next election rolls around. With 1.5 billion downloads in a matter of months, TikTok looks like it isn’t going away. Our advice for social media consultants working on the 2019 general election looking for work the next time polling day rolls around? Download TikTok and get scrolling.

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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