The explosion of popular support for UKIP on social media has been nothing short of spectacular. Since the televised debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, UKIP support on Facebook has achieved some kind of critical mass, and must be breaking all growth records for a political party.

This is what happened in April:

ukip_facebook_likes_2014_cropped

Pretty impressive, an increase in support of 33% in one month, and the 100,000 “likes” barrier broken.

What happened next was even more amazing. Support on Facebook doubled in May. By 4th June, the 200,000 “likes” barrier had been broken.

Not bad for a party who, according to the “Obama Anglaise”, Chukka Umunna, is supported by people who are unable to do the basics online, such as browsing the web or sending an email.

And it didn’t stop there. Here’s the recent statistics in last 2 months courtesy of the UK General Election 2015 blog spot:

PARTY FACEBOOK PAGE

JUNES LIKES

MAYS LIKES

DIFFERENCE +

CONSERVATIVES

217K

172K

45K

UKIP

207K

120K

87K

LABOUR

175K

166K

9K

LIB DEMS

96K

94K

2K

Those figures reflect the position on 7th June, and after that I tracked the relative daily progress of UKIP and the Conservatives. UKIP’s rate of movement was twice that of the Tories. Day by day the gap narrowed until sometime around the middle of the month UKIP was within 900 “likes” of the Tories, at around the 223K point.

Then something happened about 10 days ago. The Tories started to accelerate away from UKIP. Here’s the relative likes as I write this:

  • Conservatives: 229,027
  • UKIP: 226,766

So, now the Tories lead by 2300 “likes”. I became suspicious and began to “dig”. While you cannot directly “buy” Facebook “likes”, there are “ways and means” as it is said. Here’s what the relevant Facebook help page says:

Can I buy likes for my Facebook Page?

No. Certain websites promise to provide large numbers of likes for your Page if you sign up and give them money. These websites typically use deceptive practices or are scams. People who like your Page this way will be less valuable to your Page because they won’t necessarily have a genuine interest in what your Page is about. If we detect that your Page is connected to this type of activity, we’ll place limits on your Page.

You can pay for ads to promote your Page so more people will see it. This can lead to more people liking your Page. Running ads isn’t the same as directly purchasing likes.

Browsing around the web, it is possible to find operators who will take your money and draw in Facebook likes, but the perceived wisdom is that it is not worth it, as these are not really useful “likes” if you are trying to promote a product. However, if your sole aim is to boost the numbers…

And then I found this, an article from The Independent back in March:

Whatever the reason for his apparent lack of popularity on social media, David Cameron’s team have resorted to paying to get him more Facebook likes.

Yes, Conservative strategists have forked out thousands in party funds on Facebook ads to get the David Cameron page more fans on the site, The Mail on Sunday reports.

Facebook wouldn’t reveal any specifics on the deal, but a marketing expert told the paper that the social media campaign would have set the party back around £7500.

So, if they found it necessary to shell out £7500 to promote “Call Me Dave” on Facebook, I’m pretty certain they could find the same again to boost the Conservative Party’s page.

My case rests, M’lud.

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