Kirk J. Torrance​ is a former head of new media at the SNP

WHAT people forget is the news media’s apparent hostility towards the SNP is one of the reasons social media became a core communications channel for the party early on (in 2010), before other UK political parties began taking part.

The approach was simple in theory, difficult to carry out, but remarkably successful:

  1. You can’t pretend to be social;
  2. It’s about building real, trusted relationships at scale, over time;
  3. Be authentic and engage, enthuse, educate and empower people around the SNP and the idea of an independent Scotland;
  4. Use Facebook’s engagement tools to full effect: Facebook Live, political Q&A tool, polls, Facebook Messenger, photos and videos;
  5. Encourage your existing audience to like, share and comment in order to organically grow your audience.

How to go about it:

  1. Owned media (which you produce: video, photos, Q&As, article, etc);
  2. Bought media (which you pay to have distributed: advertising);
  3. Earned media (which your audience creates after being motivated to do so by either your owned or bought media: word of mouth, eg #ActiveSNP).

The SNP have been using social media correctly for more than eight years now. Other UK political parties were late to the game and simply can’t compete, so they instead spend outrageous amounts of money pretending to be social? – ?using adverts to make up for their lack of an authentic presence.

Here are the numbers:

  • SNP Facebook ad spend: £90,000 since September 2014 (that’s nearly four years ago).
  • The figures for Facebook ad spending in 2017 alone by party (a snap election year):

CON £2,118,045.95

LAB £577,542.19

LD £412,329.31

SNP £43,345.44

GRN 18,753.15

Yet the news media can’t help themselves gleefully conflating legitimate conscientious use of social media, Facebook advertising and psychological mumbo jumbo; all in an effort to smear the SNP. And to sell newspapers, no doubt; with all their advertisers’ adverts in front of as many people as possible, incidentally! It’s called “the dead cat strategy”. Don’t be fooled by it!

Regarding Cambridge Analytica, my impression is they are disingenuous snake oil salesmen.

If we are to believe their hyped-up methodologies, they encouraged people to use their personal Facebook accounts to log on to Cambridge Analytica servers in order to create complex psychological profiles on themselves, under false pretences.

READ MORE: Cambridge Analytica's shock indyref link

People thought they were doing a fun IQ test, or wanted to find out what celebrity they were similar to, and the like; which is clearly manipulative. Next, they deduced from those assessments what psychological vulnerabilities people might have; and from that they allegedly devised nefarious campaigns which they then spent millions of dollars delivering through a series of arm’s-length organisations and fake Facebook pages.

Whether this baroque approach actually worked or not (I doubt it) is irrelevant. There does appear to be some serious questions needing answered regarding what they claim they were doing and how they claim to have done it.

However, to believe the worst (that they had a meaningful impact on electoral outcomes), would be to accept that the public don’t know their own minds. I don’t accept that contention; people aren’t stupid.

In stark contrast, the SNP’s electoral successes have been based on real people: SNP members campaigning tirelessly on the doorstep, the telephone and the keyboard. Online activities see members of the party like, share and comment on content that is created authentically, often live and without any need for psychological tricks, or convoluted scare tactics.

See the difference? It’s a simple test: if you’re authentic you succeed, if you’re manipulative you fail.

Rule number ONE: You can’t pretend to be social

Put it this way: if people don’t proactively like you on Facebook, you can try to make them like you by advertising to them. If that doesn’t work, you can attempt manipulation and do what Cambridge Analytica is alleged to have done.

The simple differential is that people proactively like the SNP – very much – because the party and its politicians are authentic on social media. There’s no shortcut to success and since the SNP have a solid lead over other political parties in the use of the internet to distribute information, long may their electoral success continue!

READ MORE: Sign the Indy Pledge – and help improve our movement

To the journalists on the bandwagon: if you are under the impression that the SNP’s successes with digital outreach have been anything but down to organic growth over a sustained period of time, then you’re either misinformed, misunderstanding the technologies involved, or being wilfully malicious.

If it’s the latter, then you’re just as bad as Cambridge Analytica is alleged to be.

Let’s continue to #voteSNP and focus on doing what’s best for Scotland and the people who choose to make this beautiful country their home.