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Instagram in the 2014 Swedish Elections

Up next at ECREA 2016 are Jakob Svensson and Uta Russmann, whose focus is on the use of Instagram in the 2014 Swedish elections, especially by Swedish parties. Instagram is interesting in that it privileges the visual dimension that tends to be underresearched in political communications research. The images that are posted here may be more effective than mere text messages in gaining voters' attention, and are possibly also able to be more persuasive; additionally, Instagram can combine images and text, which may be even more effective.

The focus here is on the use of the platform for mobilisation, image management, and personalisation. The study tracked the Instagram activities by the seven major Swedish parties, most of which were moderately active (the Feminist Initiative was a great deal more active, however). Generally, Instagram was not used strongly for mobilisation; incumbent parties were a great deal less active in mobilisation than opposition parties, however. Personalisation is generally strong, by contrast, with a great deal of focus on partly leaders; these are largely depicted in professional rather than personal contexts. Some three quarters of all pictures contained an explicit reference to the parties.

So, there is relatively limited effort to mobilise voters, but this must be understood in the context of Instagram being used for the first time in this election. Perhaps it is at this point still an intra-party rather than externally focussed tool. There is evidence of personalisation, but still at a very professional level; and Instagram is integrated strongly into overall campaign communication. Parties perceive social media as part of their campaigning strategies, then, and do not appear to be afraid of new platforms.