Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days
Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

Tokking political campaigning to the next level: How Labour and the Conservatives are using TikTok for election campaigning

Words by:
Director of Digital
June 20, 2024

This is the first General Election in the UK where TikTok is playing a leading role in the parties’ communications strategies. “Sorry to be breaking into your usual politics-free feed,” announced Rishi Sunak in the first TikTok published by the Conservative’s new account last month. The platform launched in the UK in 2018 and was still finding its footing during the 2019 General Election. In the latest edition of its Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report, Ofcom noted that 37% of the participants had watched video content on TikTok within the last 12 months.

TikTok’s rapidly growing userbase has rarely shied away from discussing politics. As both parties establish themselves on the platform, there are important reminders about planning comms campaigns when reviewing their launches and initial weeks on TikTok.

TikTok? Isn’t it banned?

Seeing politicians on TikTok may raise some questions with its users. The social platform has found itself under the scrutiny of governments across the world. The UK government banned TikTok from government-issued devices last year. Crucially, these limitations do not stop parties from creating accounts and publishing content on TikTok. Still, there is a certain irony about politicians pivoting from slamming TikTok just last year to now using it as their latest campaigning channel.

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok will reject any political adverts. This means the parties cannot pay to push adverts to potential voters who they want to see their election messaging. They must create compelling content that users engage with and share with their followers.

The prevalence of misinformation surrounding the election is another important reason for the parties to create their own accounts. TikTok users have been subjected to false information about policies and candidates, including claims of 18-year-olds being deployed in war zones during their national service if the Tories were to win. The creation of party accounts will allow Labour and the Conservations to challenge misinformation published on TikTok.

Taking the first steps into a brave new TikTok world

The Conservatives and Labour launched their TikTok accounts shortly after the election was called. They both featured their leaders talking head-on to the camera in their debut posts. But whilst Sunak was filmed in an empty room with an imposing wood panelled background, Starmer had a group of supporters brandishing Change placards in the background of Labour’s first video. Keir used his 11 second video to repeat his party’s election messaging and encourage viewers to vote for Labour, whilst Rishi explained his widely criticised national service policy.

Unlike other social networks, such as Instagram, TikTok and its users put a lower value on perfectly shot and lit videos. In fact, some of the platforms’ most watched videos have featured someone walking down the street, ad libbing to their phone. The Conservatives’ first video may look more professional, but that’s not content TikTok users are desperate to see. Labour’s video will still have had a team filming and editing it, but featuring a crowd of supporters behind Keir does give the impression that he’s shot this on the fly and fits more closely alongside other content on TikTok.

The Conservatives had an uphill battle launching on TikTok. Its userbase’s average age skews far younger than the average age of a Conservative voter. This first video wasn’t able to explain why a sceptical TikTok viewer should vote for them.

Unpacking the parties’ identities on TikTok

Since both the launch posts have been published, Labour and the Conservatives have used their TikTok accounts to react to and critique announcements coming from the other party. Where this reactionary content was previously in the form of witty one-liners, photoshops, and GIFs on X, both parties are now making use of the video formats and editing available on TikTok.

The Labour Party heavily criticised the Conservative’s proposed national service policy, publishing multiple videos ridiculing it. These videos have used clips that will be easily recognised to TikTok users. A cut from Cilla Black singing Surprise! Surprise! with the caption POV: Rishi Sunak turning up on your 18th birthday to send you to war has now been viewed over five million times. This type of content demonstrates both an understanding of what performs well on TikTok and the ability to be able to make it relevant to political news.


Surprise surprise #generalelection #toriesout #ukelection #ukpolitics

♬ original sound – UKLabour

The Conservatives’ posts have clapped back at Labour’s response to the national service plans. One video features James Cleverly reacting to an interview Rachel Reeves had with Laura Kuenssberg, with him claiming that Labour could cut funding for apprentices.


James Cleverly calls out Labour’s dithering #uk #generalelection #rishisunak #conservative

♬ original sound – Conservatives

Learnings for integrated campaigns

TikTok may be the new kid on the block for this General Election but how Labour and the Conservatives have launched their accounts offers useful reminders on some age-old rules for integrated campaigns.

Go to where your audiences are

With attention spans getting shorter by the day, organisations cannot rely on people proactively visiting their websites or searching for their press releases. They instead need to communicate on the channels they know their audiences regularly use. For political parties trying to reach younger voters, that’s TikTok.

Understand the expectations for how you should communicate on a channel

Just as the format and tone of voice for an organisation’s press release should be different to a post published on its LinkedIn account, so too should any content published on TikTok. Copying and pasting language from a press release into a TikTok post is unlikely to get a positive reaction. Organisations who are successful on TikTok (or any social media platform) take the time to consider which points from an announcement or release their audiences need to know about and how these points can be told in a relevant and engaging way on the platform.

First impressions matter

Many of the media outlets reporting on the launch of these two new TikTok accounts praised Labour’s content and critiqued the Conservatives’ approach. This narrative in the media has continued despite the Conservative account more recently using similar tactics to content published by Labour.

This inability to change the perspective that the Conservatives’ TikTok content isn’t working demonstrates how important first impressions are for any campaign. They can be extremely hard to change and will set the tone for the rest of the campaign.

Don’t underestimate the value of timely reactive communications

The most successful social media campaigns publish both planned and reactive content. Giving space for reactive content is undoubtedly more challenging to manage than scheduling all your posts in advance. But the upsides of this include being able to directly address incorrect information and communicate directly with your target audiences. Their reactions to your content are an invaluable way of getting feedback on your campaign in near real-time.

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