The populist social media playbook: the battle for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

When he received the phone call from the leader of the far-right League party, Edoardo Della Barbara knew he had won an elaborate Facebook contest. It was February – in the midst of Italy’s general election campaign – and Della Barbara was the latest follower to like the most posts by Matteo Salvini in the shortest amount of time.

“I knew it was linked to building engagement through social media,” said Della Barbara, a 22-year-old university student from Milan.

The prize was a 10-minute one-on-one call with Salvini, which Della Barbara used to talk about his studies, his family’s business and his hope to see reduced taxes on electronic cigarettes. “It was interesting, as doing politics in this way had never been done in Italy before.”

“Who will win? Salvini will,” the party leader said in one Facebook video promoting the contest. “The others have newspapers, television, banks and corporate cash … we have you, we have the network … so long as it remains free.”

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 17/12/18]