Elections 2013: online or on paper?


The Union and AU Elections are done, the positions (mostly) filled, and the Sabbatical line-up for 2013-14 is in place. But are there any secrets to the winners’ successes? Besides having good policies or – the more cynical would argue – lots of friends, campaigning and publicity are crucial.

If the elections and campaigning bore you, this is your chance to stop reading. Otherwise, see below for an examination of how the Sabb candidates fought their campaigns, both through the expenditure of their £103 budget and through use of social media.



chillpresAs you may be aware, Chloe Hill was elected President for 2013-14. She spent all but 27 pence of her £103 allocation, with the biggest single outlay being £53.60 on t-shirts and sunglasses for her campaign team. There was the expected spending on posters (£6.25), but also some more imaginative purchases, such as £3.84 on oranges.

As well as giving her name physical exposure in St Andrews, Hill was fully engaged in the ‘social media war’. Rather than create a group or an event, she set up a separate Facebook account, which has now become ‘Chloe Hill Pres-elect’. As of Friday (8 March) evening, Elections Chloe had 371 friends and had posted 74 times between campaigning’s start and its end (16 on Tuesday 5 March alone). Many of the posts on her wall, however, were not by her, but by friends offering support and sharing her policies. This gave the impression that she had a strong team around her, rather than one person making pronouncements with little or no response.

It’s not all about Facebook though. Hill used her personal Twitter account throughout the week, which on Friday night had 68 followers. She tweeted 31 times, 12 of those coming on the last three days of campaigning. Her YouTube video, meanwhile, had an estimated 742 views on Friday evening.

Hill narrowly saw off Jamie Ross for the position. Ross did not spend any of his campaign budget, declaring that he would reinvest the money into a new pair of shoes.

So his ‘campaign’ was an online one. His Facebook event, ‘Vote Jamie Ross for Association President: he literally has nothing better to do with his time‘, had 905 attendees by Friday night. Ross posted a mere 12 times in that event, but each time he did the response was enthusiastic to say the least. His post from the Wednesday Sabb debate gained 291 likes, for example. And there were 33 posts by others on the event wall – many of which Ross replied to – which demonstrated that he was the most engaging (or popular) candidate in the race.

He only tweeted six times over the week, but then again he does have 1,321 followers, by far the largest Twitter reach of any candidate. Ross did not produce a video, possibly because he was too busy eating his strawberry yoghurt.

Nathan Elias-Ruby promised a campaign without paper, and this was largely true, besides the £21 spent on posters.

Therefore, we had another online-focused campaign. Elias-Ruby’s Facebook page gained 49 likes and his event 140 attendees. He posted 22 times in that event, supplemented by supporters’ posts. He tweeted 28 times (to 52 followers), while his video ‘Involvement‘ was seen an estimated 563 times.

Alex Thornton-Reid, like Chloe Hill, was another heavy spender, aiming to give her message as much physical exposure as possible. Big outlays included £35.86 on stickers and £21 on t-shirts.

Thornton-Reid also invested heavily online. She created a Facebook page (150 likes), an event (67 attendees) and – like Hill – a second account (86 friends). She posted on the page 77 times (31 of those in the last three days of campaigning), but there was little two-way communication like there was for Hill and Ross. Another criticism of Thornton-Reid’s campaign is that she spread her online promotion too thin, creating a profile, page and event rather than focusing on one hub of activity like Hill and Ross.

The same can be said for her approach to Twitter. Rather than use her personal account (132 followers), she created @ATRforPres and – although she tweeted 34 times – that account had a mere 19 followers. Thornton-Reid did at least win in the YouTube rankings (and The Saint‘s video poll), her video attracting around 2,615 views by the close of voting.

Duncan Downie was also willing to splash out on t-shirts (£31) and posters and flyers (£27.75 for those), but his focus on the Library and North Haugh contrasted to his disadvantage with Hill’s more thorough approach.

He was also down in the social media stakes, his page gaining 86 likes and his @VoteDuncan Twitter account only nine followers. He also took fifth place for his video – although well-produced, it had 398 views by Friday evening.

Why did Chloe Hill win? She stuck to her message – her policies were clear throughout – with few gimmicks. She and her campaign team had St Andrews covered, while she was savvy with her use of social media. The result: a win, albeit a very tight one.



Winner Teddy Woodhouse spent less than £60 of his allocated budget. £22 of his spending went on posters, with another £7.16 on hathat-211x300his website. It’s informative and looks clean and professional, so money well spent there.

On Facebook, Woodhouse gathered 220 likes and posted 33 times to that page over the week. He was even more keen on Twitter, where his personal account (as of Friday) had 180 followers; Woodhouse tweeted 72 times. As for his video, it attracted 447 hits between 3 and 8 March, with 159 coming on Wednesday 6 March.

Overall, Woodhouse fought a better campaign than his opponent, Pei Liu, which was reflected in the large margin of victory. Liu cannot be accused of not making an effort, however. £33.64 was spent on t-shirts alone, and her Facebook event had 138 attendees.

But Liu only posted 15 times in that event, and she was even less effective on Twitter. The account gained nine followers and there were only two tweets in it – both from Friday 1 March.

Liu’s video did do quite well, with 688 views. But – much as it pains to say it as a man who loves a pun or six – it doesn’t really stand up to Woodhouse’s effort. His reach – across town and across the internet – was greater and allowed him to get his core policies into voters’ minds.



Unopposed, Kelsey Gold had a relatively relaxed week but still had to campaign in order to prevent a humiliating defeat to RON. £13.75 went towards flyers and stickers, £8.35 on an attractive-looking website and £5.31 on sugar and teabags, taking the line that policies go down sweeter with a cup of tea.

As for social media use, Gold’s Facebook page gained 83 likes and she posted on that page 21 times. The Twitter account @KelseyforDOSDA had 16 followers and 17 tweets over the week.



dandoesBoth DoES candidates spent big, Daniel Palmer using up all but two pence of his budget. That bill included £26.35 for wristbands and £36.65 for a banner, while he also invested in printed publicity and food (cookies).

Online, Palmer’s Facebook page attracted 139 likes (he posted on there 36 times) and his event 161 attendees. As well as tweeting 10 times from his personal Twitter account, @DanforDoES (23 followers) tweeted on 24 occasions. His video was seen 513 times.

Fionnuala Glover, as Palmer freely admitted, fought a good campaign as well. £27.49 was the biggest outlay, on t-shirts, while £14 was spent on stickers.

On Facebook, Glover went for the same approach as Palmer: a page (149 likes) and an event (151 attendees). The page was posted on 20 times by Glover, 16 times fewer than Palmer.

On Twitter, the @FG_ThinkFresh account (16 followers) tweeted 21 times. Glover had the upper hand when it came to her video; regardless of whether Irish rapping does it for you or not, it was viewed 627 times as of Friday night, over 100 more than Palmer’s was.

The two DoES candidates seem pretty close then – where did Palmer win it? His experience in the Union undoubtedly helped, as did the fact that Glover’s campaign only got going on Saturday 2 March. While her Facebook and Twitter sat in stony silence, Palmer sent out one Facebook post and six tweets, getting his name out first without reply.



jesswauAnother fairly tight race, in which Jess Walker ultimately proved victorious. She spread out her costs across t-shirts (£19.32), printing (£21) and helium (£27), showing a desire to snare those floating voters.

Walker had 202 Facebook likes and posted on that page 41 times, with those posts spread fairly well across the week (Tuesday 5 March saw the most posts, nine). She was also all over Twitter, tweeting from her personal account (43 followers) 68 times, including 26 times on Monday 4 March. Her video had 1,178 views.

The bill for Stuart Owen was dominated by ‘sundry [assorted] printing’, which came to £86.64. Undoubtedly Owen was taking this very seriously, but perhaps he lacked the imagination of his opponent.

On Facebook, his page was 53 likes behind Walker’s; on Twitter, he also used his personal account, but it had 17 fewer followers than Walker’s and he only tweeted seven times. His campaign video also performed strongly and indeed, with 1463 hits, it had just under 300 more views than Walker’s.

Whether it was Walker’s larger presence on social media or not, it was she who just about won the election in the end.
So, what can we gain from the above information? The days of on-the-ground campaigning are not over yet, despite Jamie Ross’ online-only effort. Chloe Hill won the most hotly-contested race through a combination of social media publicity and having a campaign team plugging away across town.

It’s also not all about campaigning. Hill’s policies, if not flawless, were very coherent and her experience from last year undoubtedly helped her. Across the board, policies and experience did make the elections something more than a mere popularity contest.

Do you agree? Who do you think ran the most effective campaign? It’s all subjective of course, so do tell me what you think.


  1. We fought Daniel’s campaign based on the premise that there were four types of voters.

    1) Your friends – and their friends. – People who, no matter what you say, will always vote for you.
    2) Your opponents friends – and their friends. – People who, no matter what you say, will never vote for you.
    3) The 10-20%. People who take an active interest in your policies, and make a balanced decision.
    4) The rest – people who will vote, because they also fall into category one, but for someone else standing in the election, and so will make a decision without really knowing (or caring?) anything about your policies and experience.

    Given that you can’t do anything about number 1 and 2, you’ve got to work on coherent policy to please number 3, but more than anything – the rest – who you need to get the name to. “The rest” won’t read policy, they probably won’t even read the 250 words, but they’ll make a snap decision based on remembering, or having seen the name. You therefore have to find innovative ways of getting that name to them, and making it stick in their memory. These are the folks that you’re targeting when trying to get viral growth on facebook – and they were certainly the one’s we had in mind when we went for a professional banner to hang outside the library.

    Yes, there’s an element of a popularity contest, but quite honestly, that probably affects section 1 and 2 more than 3 and 4. And 3 and 4 is where it’s won and lost. Dan’s election is proof of that.


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