The two New Zealanders behind Boris Johnson's social media campaign

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had the help of kiwis Sean Topham and Ben Guerin on his social media campaign.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had the help of kiwis Sean Topham and Ben Guerin on his social media campaign. Photo credit: Getty;Facebook/Topham Geurin

Two New Zealanders are behind the social media campaign that helped catapult UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to an election victory on Friday.

Sean Topham, 28, and Ben Guerin, 24, are the Kiwi duo behind digital marketing agency Topham Guerin (TG), and they were hired by Johnson to help the Conservative Party with their social media output.

In a 50 minute YouTube video, Ben Guerin explained how the pair use strategies including "boomer memes", "water dripping on a stone" and unlocking "arousal emotions" to maximise social media impact.

He said these help TG win "the battle of the thumbs" in elections.

"Boomer memes" are what Guerin calls deliberately lame or cliched visual gags that are poorly designed and often reference themes in popular culture.

"You're going to slap some Calibri font on a shitty reused meme and you're going to publish it and then you get onto the next one. And that content is going to do better than the thing that your poor graphic designer spent a week on. Sad but true," Guerin said.

They would maintain a social media advantage by posting up to 30 times a day at the height of a campaign.

A second strategy Guerin said they use is water dripping on a stone, where "the same consistent message" is pushed each day.

In the UK, the pro-Boris message was "get Brexit done" and the anti-Labour Party one was "more dither and delay".

Guerin explained that after capturing the audience's attention, you next had to encourage engagement by using arousal emotions so the audience will "give a damn" and share the post.

Due to Facebook's algorithms, Guerin said the more a post is liked, commented on or shared, the higher chance there is it will spread online.

Two videos TG were behind and that were shared thousands of times on Twitter include Johnson's Love Actually parody, and his "tea break" where he made a cup of tea by pouring the milk in first. The videos received 3.8 million views and 5 million views respectively.

Before being hired for Johnson's campaign, Topham and Guerin worked for current Australian prime minister Scott Morrison's Liberal Party during the 2019 election. They were also hired by the National Party in 2017 to help then-prime minister Bill English take on new leader Jacinda Ardern in the election.

TG's social media tips come at a time when Facebook decided in October to not fact-check advertisements run by politicians, according to Business Insider.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the reason they don't check political advertisements is because the public "should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying".

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