The Labour leader uses Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and viral videos to take his message directly to the electorate, and claims that by bypassing the news media he is disseminating his policies more successfully.
“We are getting enormous cut-through on social media and I think sometimes the national debate is framed around the political media circle that often ignores the reality of how many people get their information,” he told The Guardian last year.
More recently, Corbyn responded to criticism from Labour MPs at a meeting of the parliamentary party after losing the Copeland by-election by saying: “Of course I understand what’s going on and the problems we have had in the media.
“We need to get a strong, positive message across and we do that better on social media.”
But new analysis by ImpactSocial shows that, in fact, Corbyn is losing out to the Prime Minister when it comes to social media.
Jimmy Leach, a former head of digital communications in Downing Street, warned in a piece for The Times that:
If the social media hordes were meant to be the cavalry which saved Corbyn from the dreadful polling numbers, then someone needs to find Plan B. Jimmy Leach
Here are five ways that show how the Labour leader is losing out to his Conservative counterpart on social media:
1. May beats Corbyn on mentions
The ImpactSocial research looked at social media posts on all platforms, removing those from journalists and party apparatchiks, to get a clear view of how normal voters respond to the main party leaders.
They found there were 260,000 posts mentioning May in February, compared to 225,000 centred on Corbyn.
2. Of those mentions, more are positive about May
When Corbyn was mentioned in social media posts, only 11% of those were classed as “positive” commentary.
A further 44% were instead classed as “negative”, while 45% were “neutral”, the research showed.
Theresa May, meanwhile, only managed a small increase on “positive” posts (12%) but was the subject of far fewer “negative” posts (20%). The “neutral” figure stood at 69%.
3. May wins on presence and performance
The PM is the clear winner on positive mentions about “strong leadership” (25%) and “makes right choices” (16%).
Corbyn, on the other hand, wins on “loyalty” (51%) and the “NHS” (22%).
4. Brexit posts heavily favour May
On the biggest upheaval to the political system Britain has faced in decades, Corbyn trails May on positive social media mentions about Brexit.
ImpactSocial found 16% of posts “positively” mentioned the Prime Minister and the country’s exit from the European Union, falling to 7% for Corbyn.
May did have a higher “negative” score on her approach to Brexit, though, at 36% to Corbyn’s 32%.
5. The ‘relaunch’ seems to have stalled
At the start of 2017, Corbyn’s team announced a relaunch aimed at riding the anti-politics wave.
Politico reported an aide to the Labour leader briefing that: “Instead of trying to rebut or kill a negative story that might appear in the press, Corbyn’s team now plan to highlight such articles, making greater use of Twitter and Facebook to attack the media rather than attempting to manage it.”
Despite being two months into the new year, ImpactSocial found that just some of the reasons behind Corbyn’s “negative” perception included:
- His approach to Brexit (32%)
- General ridicule (14%)
- He should quit as leader (14%)
- The Copeland by-election loss (9%)
- He won’t win the general election in 2020 (7%)
- He is destroying Labour (6%)
A Telegraph analysis did find that Corbyn does beat May on Twitter followers, while the Labour shadow ministers Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Keir Starmer all have a bigger following than their government counterparts.
The coming months and years will prove whether that social media strategy proves more successful.