A marketer back in NZ from the US discusses what Winston Peters' foray into Instagram reveals about the way social media will shape the election 

Image sourced from Winston Peters' Instagram account

By Antony Young*

Winston Peters, the grand master of creating media headline mountains out of non-event molehills, uncharacteristically chose to quietly launch his very own Instagram account earlier this month. You might ask, what’s the big deal of him signing up to the photo sharing social media network with millions of others who feel the need to upload pictures of the dessert they’re about to eat?

While perhaps not newsworthy, I can tell you it’s a significant move that the leader of a party that derives about 40% of its votes from over 65s is upping his social media presence going into an important election year. The US presidential election showed us just how influential social media can be in steering the agenda for an election. Mr Peters picked Trump to win. He and the other party leaders must surely have followed not just the outcome, but also the tactics employed by the controversial businessman to get him into the White House.

Social media has played a prominent role in the past three US presidential elections. In 2008 Barack Obama’s team used social media expertly to mobilise young first time voters to get behind him, and counter large private campaign funders of his opponents by targeting millions of small donors to fund his election campaign. In 2012, it was social media that handed Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign a decisive blow when his ill-advised 47% comment at a private function was captured on video and posted on YouTube that plagued his campaign. Twitter lit up during the influential Presidential debates to amplify his misplaced references to “binders of women.”

Meanwhile Obama employed social media deftly to encourage his supporters’ Facebook friends in key swing states such as Ohio to register and vote early, thereby increasing voter turnout of favourable voter groups. 

But last year we saw a shift where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram become more pervasive digital versions of talk back radio or letters to editors. When I lived in the US, I worked in a Democrat town and resided in a Republican neighbourhood. In my 10 years there, I could count maybe just a couple of occasions ever hearing anyone overtly express their political views. In America, politics just isn’t seen as appropriate discussion at dinner parties or workplace conversation. Contrast this with the social media conversation this last election cycle. The volume of political posts has been deafening. Anti-Trump, pro-Trump, anti-Hillary, pro-Hillary; 2016 pivoted to where it became acceptable online to voice what remains socially unacceptable in-person. 

The other trend while not new that did pick up momentum in this last election, is social media’s role in initiating election news on and in the mainstream media. Trump regularly tweeted in the early hours of the morning only for news outlets to pick up on this and feed that day’s news cycle. It worked to keep him in the news as the major media companies couldn’t resist covering his every word. It has become common place now that the largely under-resourced news teams find quoting Twitter or publishing a photo op on Instagram as easy and efficient news reporting.

While Facebook and other social media is eating into the legacy media companies’ audiences and advertising incomes, they have also become important venues for them to gain audiences. A study last year by the Pew Research Center revealed that 44% of Americans got their election news from social media sites, up from just 17% in 2012. Consequently, newspaper and cable news organisations discovered that programming content that feeds partisan viewpoints provides a boost financially for their companies. The right leaning FOX News had a bumper last year and in the weeks immediately following Trump’s election in November. And paid subscriptions at the liberal leaning New York Times increased tenfold compared with the previous year.

So what can we expect in New Zealand heading into our September General Election? The likes of NZME, Fairfax and our broadcasters aren’t immune to the same commercial and audience challenges affecting US media. Twice as many New Zealanders check-in to Facebook each day than read an actual daily newspaper in this country. All my 25+ years of marketing experience reinforce that word of mouth advertising is so much more effective than any TV ad. Social media is a powerful word of mouth platform for marketers, punters and politicians alike. Every vote this year is going to be important. Expect to see 2017 be the social media election. Watch your newsfeed!  


*Antony Young is co-founder of The Digital Café, a firm that specialises in social and digital marketing for SMEs. He spent the last ten years living in the United States as CEO of several advertising and media agency firms before returning back to New Zealand last year.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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36 Comments

I am unlikely to be influenced by Social Media , and I dont do polls, (and have never done an online poll before an election) , but then , I am a boomer and my opinion and my vote does not matter that much

I read the news on the internet , but thats it , the rest for me is a waste of time.

One thing is certain however , my wife and I always vote, whereas our kids are too lazy to bother

Boatman, have you encouraged your kids to vote? And if so, what has their response been? My oldest nephew is old enough to vote for the first time this year. I tried to encourage him to do so over summer. But he doesn't seem to see much point in it.

Better let him know that if he doesn't vote he'll have to rent till he dies

So who does he vote for?

He could vote for Labour, But they are probably party to the same lobbyists and offshore interests.

He could vote for the Greens, they might give him a house, but they will take his car, and possibly his job.

He could vote for Winston, he does have 30 years of talk behind him... oh wait, I just saw him carrying a card saying "NO"

He could vote for Maori Party, but with Hone back in the fold, he won't see much more than bluster and the occasional argument.

He could vote for TOP, But Gareth wants to tax homeowners until only The One Percenters like himself can afford to own.

He could vote for ACT, that at least would be some poetic Irony, given they never ACT.

He could vote for UF, Peter might get him better holidays, but he won't get him a house.

So that leaves National and we all know that story wont end Happily Ever After.

Face it politics is no longer about doing something better. There are no policies addressing any of the current problems, and even if there were, would you actually trust a politician to follow through correctly, if at all?

Politics these days is nothing more than lifting your snout out the trough long enough to say "the other lot are worse"

Doing nothing and just voting the same way is the best approach?

Have you read any housing policies? Are you asking the questions of the parties? It seems like you're standing up straw men of them instead.

It's bollocks to write everyone else off without reading what they've published or discussed, solely to perpetuate the status quo that as noted, is not performing and won't deliver good outcomes if elected again.

Let's see, in the past we've used Land Tax to break up land banks and give Kiwis the opportunity to own. We've at multiple times used builds to increase supply.

I've read and asked two parties so far (Labour, Greens). I've never voted for Labour before - and the Greens only once - but at least they are advocating for measures such as limiting foreign purchases to new builds, cutting immigration etc.

Ideally we need to be pushing them for a 20% stamp duty on purchases not by PRs or Citizens. But if people simply vote for the current lot of muppets it's indeed a vote for Kiwis to be displaced by all the money around the globe that sees Auckland as a desirable place to live once their own homes are too polluted, corrupt etc.

I have read a lot of the policies. Most are vague ideas, if you could even call them that. A bunch of forecasted numbers that only a politician could believe.

In terms of meeting the people, NP isn't exactly high on their visiting agenda, and even if they are, it's often invite only for the selected few lobbiests (I mean important voters). Plus a few school visits for some PR.

A no vote can be seen as a vote of no confidence in all Politicians. When a large enough group stop voting, the pollies should become incentivised to cater to them. After all if you can get 40% of non voters to vote, you stand a good shot at getting some power, and isn't that really what the pollies are after?

I call BS on that Noncents. The right actively negatively campaign the point that all politicians/parties are useless, they can't achieve anything, the world is going to hell in a handbasket..... you hear it on right-wing talk shows all the time.......they do that because they know the left need optimism, the left needs to promote progress, hope etc -the left need to activate the young etc to vote. Whereas the right just need to say the status quo is ok, the right are good economic managers etc. and older conservative people are more reliable voters even when the public give up on politicians as Boatman has said about his versus his kids voting patterns.

You call BS on me reading policies? Based on what exactly? I love how everyone on this site can make clear personalized judgments based on a few comments.

In reply, It's not just the right any incumbent doesn't have to do as much.

If you look at the voting stats, voter turnout drops more and more every year.

Voters are disengaged and disenfranchised. Has no-one watched the news the past year at all?

I called BS more on your first comment. Which promoted the theme that all politicians are as bad as each other. This is a tactic I have noticed right wing supporters use when they have lost the argument. They then promote a narrative about 'all politicians being useless, the other lot can't do any better........'. All that attitude does is create despondency.

In fact there are quite marked differences in housing policies between the political parties. Sure some of it is general in nature but the closer we get to the election the more detailed the policies will become -that's how politics works. The detailed policy work is released close to the election for maximum effect.

From my experience they are all as bad at each other.

Both Labour and National have alternated power for the last 100 years. Yet they both claim that the country is falling further behind.

WHile I would honestly like to believe this "Sure some of it is general in nature but the closer we get to the election the more detailed the policies will become -that's how politics works. The detailed policy work is released close to the election for maximum effect."

I will withhold judgement, the last 6 elections as I remember, it was the bribes that got released at election time, not the in depth details of long term beneficial policies.

I mean how hard is it to have a policy such as "Only citizens can buy houses", or "Water must be drinkable", or "Kiwisaver has no fees on Capital", or "Life in prison, means life in prison", or "Insurance claims must be settled with 90 days", or "Drunks pay for emergency services"

Instead I see policy like, "Labour will establish an Affordable Housing Authority" wow - you will let more pigs at the trough. or National's policy "There is no problem" - good one Bill.

Face it, it's not left or right, it just poor policy. You want votes - do something that matters.

I tend to agree with that more needs to be done on housing policy from all political parties. But you can't say the political parties have identical approaches to housing.

Labour calls the housing situation a crisis -a moral challenge. National calls it a good problem to have.

Labour would ban foreigners from buying property unless they build their own home. National want to continue giving foreign buyers complete freedom to buy and tried to tie future governments hands on the issue of allowing unlimited foreign buyers, by the way it negotiated trade agreements -TPA.

Labour wants to start a government backed house building programme -announced in 2013 -KiwiBuild. National considering this but have not started in 8 years.

Labour would build more State Houses and turn HNZ into a government department with no profit motive. National want to sell off State Housing to social housing providers. National took $1/2 billion out of HNZ in dividends preventing HNZ from building houses....

Phil Twyford -Labour's housing spokesman has raised publicity about building costs. Nick Smith hasn't done anything. Bill English re-named his housing minister something else because redefining things is the new way this government solve problems.....

I could go on......

I understand what you mean.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that both policies and approaches are terrible.

If either party wants my vote they will have to do a lot better.

Agree....the trouble is an election isnt a single issue. Sure you could vote Green but in effect then you get Labour anyway and any other baggage that comes with the Green's you do not like as well.

Gareth , yes I have encouraged them and over the years we have always discussed politics around the dining room table , so its not as if we have not got them interested .

Maybe my remark about being too lazy was a bit unfair as all three have political views , but somehow none of the parties seem to gel with them as young people

Two of our three are in their twenties and in the last 2 elections , neither bothered to go and vote and in the last Auckland local Govt elections I found my sons election form in the glove box of his ute ....... about a month after the election was over.

I suspect they will vote this time , because of the housing crisis, which is now impacting on them them as they get older .

This notwithstanding , I doubt there is any party who can fix this housing mess , Labour has a plan which is a wishlist , and National is in battle with everyone right now . The Greens are frankly clueless and opposed to everything , and Winston is focused on people like me , we mostly own our homes .

Boatman - please read Winston Peter's Policy on Housing (and everything else) and see whether you can say it is only for us older people. Definitely not. The problem is (check this out with the young ones) that they do only read what is on Social Media (apologies for generalizing) but the more headlines that National can grab putting down Winston as old, past it, is how they intend to deflect (and have the young ones believe) is what they are going to be contronted with this Election - working with him and his common sense ideas. Immigration - check it out and how long he has been saying it. Enjoy

Certainly true in the past, but I think domestic and global events have changed things slightly. I would predict a higher voter turnout this election.

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Many a times media try to influence the mind of the people for vested interest and also human nature is such that so called experts starts to believe that what they feel is correct and mocks people's view and idea (if opposite to them) and now with social media and communication it is hard to supress and manipulate voice of the people.

Biggest example in NZ can be of housing - everyone knows that housing is a Big BIG issue but for government it is not a issue (So far away from reality) and now they even blame mountains, river ...environment for the same but themselves.

Even the comments on this website if not what the people running the website wants may feel that it is just a view of few good for nothing people but they forget that even the survey is done based on a group so what you feel on this or any group is actually the sentiment of the people at large and anyone ignoring or mocking them should do at their own risk.

Yes. Your comment is a good example of one where people who want to believe something find anecdotes to support their view. Social media allows this to be amplified among people who hold the same starting view.

Housing affordability is a classic example. It is an issue. But it is much more nuanced than the standard superficial take on it by politically motivated.

As an example, the Demographia median multiples (and even our own median multiple reviews) can be used to shout 'fire', but they don't really tell an accurate story. However, they do tell one that can be dramatic in the headline. The problem with these type of high-level reviews is that the medians are very general. No-one should care that housing is unaffordable in Kandallah, Fendalton, or Remuera. These places are in the Demographia data. What we should care about is young people (25-29) getting in to their first house (which is what our Home Loan Affordability series measures). But not in the aforementioned suburbs, but in the places where typically first home buyers buy.

Our HLA reports for first home buyer households show that just about everywhere in New Zealand is affordable, even now. It is an under-reported story, one that involves facts that don't match some political rhetoric. There are a few exceptions of course: Queenstown, and parts of Auckland. But on the fringes of Auckland like Papkura/Pukekohe, and Rodney things are basically affordable.

I am using home loan affordability as an example of how social screeching can change the narrative, but the facts should anchor the conversation. Too often nowdays they get sidelined.

If you want untested social media anecdotes to bolster your unanalytical view, you can get that from many places now. But if you want verified facts, you might have to check out news outlets that still value them - and read some stuff that challenges your preconceived notions. Fortunately there are still some media that puts the work in to investigate properly. It is easy to call stuff you don't like 'fake'. But the only person being fooled is yourself.

At the heart of it is lazy thinking, embellished by social media.

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"What we should care about is young people (25-29) getting in to their first house (which is what our Home Loan Affordability series measures). But not in the aforementioned suburbs, but in the places where typically first home buyers buy."

Affordability is indeed a great measure,

Lets look at the demographics of what is generally accepted as a FHB, <35, probably earning $60k a year, 1-2 kindy/primary school age kids.

My parents bought their first house when I was born in 1980. They bought out in the boondocks "miles away" from Wellington - at least that is what people thought about Papakowhai back then ;-)

Point proven you say, but lets compare apples with apples.

That new FHB area my parents bought in had kindergartens, multiple primary schools, a secondary school, parks and reserves, direct rail link into Wgtn, easy motorway access, a large shopping area less than 5 minutes drive away, a decent sized block of land, and only 3-4x their annual income.

Now we expect a FHB to live in a glorified shed in a newly turned over paddock literally hours away from all amenities, all for a bargain 11x their annual salary.

Do the FHB have unrealistic expectations around affordability? or do you?

The 50.5% of take home pay in Rodney is getting a bit tight for two median earning DINKs. Add 11% for student loan repayments, 3% kiwisaver then you get 64.5% of their take home pay used and the remainder for all other living costs, insurance etc.

That leaves those earning less than median and single income households out in the cold. Should we be targeting 50% house ownership or a sustainable number around 60-70%.

e: Also to maintain lifestyle in retirement they should be saving at least 10% of take home (the new rough rule of thumb for retirement is save 15% of gross income). FHB better learn to like living on rice and beans.

Hi David, as a prospective FHB at what house price to income ratio do you consider "affordable?" The New Zealand median income to house price ration is somewhere around 9:1; is that "affordable" to you? I understand that's a broad statistic to use and cities and suburbs can vary greatly, but I'm still curious to know.

If you just cut out the flat whites, sky telly and - worst of all! - smashed avocado, I'm assured everything will be affordable.

In fairness, they are financial habits that are usually indicative of wider spending issues.

Coffee a day = $5 * 365 = $1,825
Sky = $100 * 12 = $1,200
Brunch each weekend = $30 * 52 = $1,560

Total just for those = $4,585 a year

Now add in a few drinks each week, dinner out once a week, buy your lunch a couple of times a week, a movie each month, maybe a concert in summer, a league game in Winter, a lotto ticket here and there. Doesn't take much and you are look at $10k - $15k a year in junk.

Latest phone, a flashy car (usually on finance), some labeled clothing, and a nice TV (also on finance). Boom there goes your house deposit.

Heaven help the pack a day smokers ($25*365 = $9,125 per year)

I am probably considered Gen X, but even I can see it is excessive.

Yeah, twas being facetious - but most people I know who are saving hard aren't doing those things anyway. And who pays for Sky these days? (Old folks.)

Most decent workplaces have espresso makers and many jobs provide your cellphone, a smart phone being a necessity for a lot of jobs. People are buying their clothes online from ASOS (cheap), most I know buy cheap cars etc.

These ones are just as far away from having a house as those who actually do those things the old folks froth at the mouth about (smashed avocado obviously being the classic best of the lot).

You can get a perfectly adequate Android phone these days for under $50, just wait till the one you want comes on special at the Ware whare

I thought so, but it is something that I see a lot of. People believe they should get "treats" but fail to understand the difference between a treat and a habit.

I do agree with the gist of it though. Life in general is getting more and more unaffordable, particularly housing. A lot of my friends are having issues saving for a deposit, and they are earning decent money and living like paupers.

A few have already given up and headed overseas.

Rick - the sensible advice to the young .... spend spend and rake up as much debt as you can.

When it all eventually tips over the indebted/reckless will be no worse / better off than the prudent ...

I have often thought about that.

Spend on non tangibles (Meals out, holidays, experiences, etc...), that way if they do come to collect, they still walk away empty.

David Chaston if you are looking for an objective fact on housing affordability. It is hard to ignore that 1991 was the year of peak home ownership and the trend since then has been houses have become less affordable i.e. less and less people have bought their own homes as a % of the total housing stock.

Of course you could ignore this fact and many do. They counter it by saying this generation of youngsters are uniquely useless -prone to drug use, spendthrift behaviour -that unnatural craving for smashed avocado being a particular wasteful behaviour and other such depravities.

What a joke -when boomers were young did they complain that the old folk did not understand them? I think so.
https://futuretravel.today/cultural-change-and-the-built-environment-8ad...

David - would you consider "social cost" part of affordability. I live in Pukekohe and people are leaving home at 5.30 in the morning (worse when it rains!) to get to their jobs, whether in the CBD, East Tamaki, the Airport etc. Is four hours plus a day driving on the Southern Motorway costing time, fuel and lack of time with their families included in affordability? Public transport is fine if you want to go to the CBD (and don't mind the diesel trains before changing at Papakura) but a complete waste of time for most as that is not where they work. You might be surprised to see just how expensive houses are out here now (add Pokeno into that) when there is no volume of work for those living out here and certainly no decent infrastructure to cope with what Auckland Council are pushing out South. I have lived in this area for 29 years so don't need facts and figures from Government or Treasury or HLA reports to tell me what I see and experience every day.

vl1975nz, I am with you as I may not understand high terminology used by experts but do understand, when government is manipulating and should go to save the country as power does corrupt and the same can be seen in national government arrogance.

This year turnover for voting will be high as will be a Vote for change.

Trump clearly relied more on social media than the traditional tv and print media in his election campaign.
His attacks on these since he took office clearly demonstrates that he doesn't value their role or support for maintaining his power.
It is both sad and frightening, the reality is that social media provides access to a vast number of electors who are neither necessarily interested in a critical analysis of the issues nor the truth (being accepting of "alternative facts"). It is most likely that this section of society have become more politically interested and active in voting hence the result we saw in the USA election.
This is a change as a result of technology and the consequence is likely to be a subtle non-violent revolution.

I agree that Trump doesn't value "traditional" forms of media, however, I disagree that social media is "sad and frightening." It is simply a horse of a different colour, and can be informative with robust arguments and facts being given, or it can be a turd flinging fest of SJWs and third wave feminists; which is no different to the radio, newspapers or tv.

Everything has its plus and minus. I think more plus as media too is not without bias.

National has a big pot of cash. Expect some fairly heavy spend on putting arguably fake news out across social media via social media consultancies.

Could they get this guy for free?

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media Read more

Refreshing to see Russia drop out of contention as the veil is pulled back to reveal US citizen involvement. .