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To the left, to the left: what side of the election is TikTok on?

From left to right: @nathanbyrnee, @rachminghella, @newstatesman

As polling stations opened this morning, the UK general election is in full swing, and social media is exploding with political discourse on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and now TikTok. If you are familiar with TikTok, you’d know that it is not a conventional platform for serious debate, let alone politics.

Known predominantly for its hosting of authentic and raw content, users have utilised the platforms in-app features and found unique ways to join in on the conversation. So, what’s the verdict? Right or left?

At Fanbytes, we’ve developed an in-house tool, Bytesights, which measures and tracks the trending topics and hashtags on the platform allowing us to keep a pulse on what’s hot and what’s not on TikTok. Using this tool, we dug into how Gen Z were feeling about the election with some interesting findings.

Unsurprisingly, whilst neither Labour or Conservative has braced their presence with an account on the app, there is a large amount of political discussion amongst users. Using the main content discovery method, we used hashtags to discover popular content on the election.

Taking a look at the hashtags on the app, we came to the conclusion that users are very much siding with Labour. The #votelabour hashtag has 2m views and 627 posts, a whopping 33 times more than the #voteconservative hashtag, which has only 61k views and just 37 videos created on it.

Interestingly, however, was whilst #votelabour might’ve been the more popular hashtag, #borisjohnson received a total of 4m views, 835 posts, and #jeremycorbyn received 50% less with 2m views and 444 posts. We also thought it’d be beneficial to know how users engagement with the content, and as a result found that whilst #borisjohnson had around 8,000 comments, 285,000 likes, and over 15,000 shares, #jeremycorbyn had over 4,000 comments, over 125,000 likes, and around 10,000 shares.

Why was this the case?

After taking a closer look at the content created, we realised that it wasn’t so much because the users favoured Boris over Jeremy, but that users were using the #borisjohnson hashtag to ridicule him and to comment on the outcome of the election if he wins.

How are Gen Z using TikTok’s features to get their views across?

Popular content surrounding the #voteconservative hashtag includes text-based memes, which are one of the most popular types of content on TikTok. One girl uses a relatable situation between a crush and herself where she rips up a labour leaflet after discovering that her crush supports labour.

Whilst the #votelabour hashtag consists of similar text-based meme content, users seem to have gotten more creative with it. For example, we have seen people use several of Tiktok’s other features such as their duet feature to demonstrate the sharp contrast of views with the Conservative party. One girl uses a greenscreen applying Theresa May and David Cameron’s face as a backdrop to invoke humour.

Why should we care what Tiktok thinks anyway?

The average age of a TikTok user is 13, which means that they are too young to participate in the general election right now. So, a lot of people will be deliberating whether it is necessary for political parties to get on the app.

We know that it is. UK general elections take place every five years, at which time TikTokkers will be old enough to take part. Also, from the millions of views received on election-related content throughout the week, we can also ascertain that they actually have an interest in politics. Taking advantage of this information would be a smart decision for political parties who are thinking about building a presence on the app now, so that when that time does come around, they would have built the younger connections necessary for the vote.

From the data collected, we have been able to make conclusions on the political views expressed on Tiktok as a whole. Indeed, Tiktok is leaning more towards Labour right now, but it’ll be interesting to compare to see how the vote pans out in the next election when they are old enough to vote.

Shelly Chadha is content manager at Fanbytes.

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