Parties spend record amount on online adverts in last-ditch race for votes

Broadcasters have to follow strict rules on polling day, meaning that there has been a blackout on election news today.

The rules are there to prevent any influence over how people choose to vote.

For decades that restricted what political parties could do after polls opened, but in recent years that has changed as the rules don't apply online. The parties have made the most of it this year, with their biggest day of campaigning online ever.

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Today was the biggest one-day digital spend, amounting to an estimated one million pounds by all parties by the time the polls closed, according to Who Targets Me, who monitor political ad spending online and have been Sky News' partner for the election.

We spent polling day tracking the last-ditch attempts by all parties on all platforms.

The Tories dominated social media from early on Thursday, with 17 posts across Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and X in the morning alone.

Most of the posts were firmly on the attack, the majority reminding voters of the tax raises they claim people would face under a Labour government, and the risk of a Labour supermajority.

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On TikTok, their approach was a little more personal. Similar to what we saw earlier on in the campaign, they pushed a video of Sunak telling followers to get out and vote.

Labour took a more humorous tone on TikTok, continuing the theme it’s had throughout the election period, to appeal to a younger audience, warning them they may wake up next to Rishi Sunak.

One video appears to show a montage of Photoshopped images of various Tory leaders, including Rishi Sunak in bed, with the caption saying, “Don’t wake up to give more years of the Tories tomorrow”. This was also repeated on Facebook but compared to the Tories, Labour's approach on Meta's platforms Facebook and Instagram was pretty bare bones.

The Liberal Democrats were also on the offensive but took a similar youthful approach as Labour, captioning one TikTok video with “me and besties on our way to vote the Tories out”.

But they were spending a lot more promoting adverts than the Tories, according to Who Targets Me.

Reform has been dominating on all social media platforms since the start of the election, but was uncharacteristically quiet on election day, posting straightforward messages telling people to vote, and retweeting posts made by Reform Party leader Nigel Farage, who was a little more vocal.

He posted nearly every hour, promoting Reform policy lines and videos of himself to rally his base. This focus on policy was made central to what the party proposed, perhaps a move to make him appear statesmanlike.

The way parties have leveraged these platforms in the final hours tells us two things about social media: its availability, and its reach. How influential it can be in changing minds, we do not know.

But you wonder if, in years to come, the social media giants could also be subject to the same election blackouts that have always been imposed on television.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.