Online ads and algorithms

This spring we ran a huge European election campaign – in which we ran our most sophisticated digital operation yet.

And yesterday, we elected Jo Swinson as our new leader of the Liberal Democrats.

And because we are winning and we have elected a formidable new leader, we are at the receiving end of more attacks from other political parties online.

There are lots of myths about how social media ads work, so I wanted to shed some light.

Myth 1: If I click on an ad, it charges the advertiser who has paid to reach me online

❌ False!

This used to be how online adverts work, but not anymore.

If you click on an advert, the social media algorithm will take that signal as meaning the ad is useful and relevant to you, and as a result will show that ad to more people.

So please do click on our adverts – as well as like, comment and share them, and ignore adverts from other political parties.

This has the added benefit of making sure that when our ads reach non-members, they are filled with positive reactions and comments – making us look welcoming and a happy group for others to interact with too.

Myth 2: As a member, I shouldn’t be seeing Liberal Democrat adverts


You should be seeing our adverts, especially when there is an election or other big party news.

We wish it wasn’t so, but not all of our 100,000 members will remember it’s polling day and remember to vote.

And not all of our members are always engaged, inspired and active in the party.

In the same way that we deliver leaflets to everyone and we send emails to everyone, we direct advertisements to everyone. We do our best to make sure that our members, who’s vote we can usually count on, do remember to vote for us.

If you spot one, engage with it – it helps us reach more people.

Myth 3: I should challenge other political parties when they attack the Lib Dems online

❌ False!

There are many trolls and bots online. Like many political parties, the Lib Dems receive many negative attacks and comments under our posts, and are a target for attacks for other parties – especially when we are on the up, and winning over people who used to vote for other parties.

If you comment on, share or retweet attacks on us, even to challenge them, it causes posts and threads of negative attacks on us to reach a whole new audience – your friends and followers.

Some of them may be persuaded by the negative ads and we might lose potential votes.

So ignore these posts – and share our content instead!

You can find lots of positive party news at

Myth 4: I should challenge people when they attack the Lib Dems in the comments of our posts

✔︎ True!

If the trolls and the bots come to our posts online – which they always do – having people supporting us in the comments is valuable.

There are lots of people online who are read comments and threads without posting their own comments. They can be people who do not have strong views on a political party – and having support among the trolls adds credibility to our messages.

It also helps these posts reach a wider audience for free – your friends and followers.

Social media advertising can be a confusing business – but the Liberal Democrats have one of the most sophisticated operations in the UK.

We hope debunking some of these myths is useful to you.