Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during his visit to the Penrith Christian School in NSW on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
With less than a week before Australians go to the polls, new social media data shows Opposition Leader Tony Abbott may be winning in the key digital battleground of Facebook.
Despite Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's long held lead on rival platform Twitter, data from online media analytics firm Social Bakers shows Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party have outperformed the ALP's online strategists since the election was called.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Photo: Andrew Meares
While many factors drive online engagement for Australia's 12 million regular Facebook users, Mr Abbott's number of Facebook fans has grown 349 per cent to more than 223,000 since the beginning of the campaign.
He easily outperforms Mr Rudd, who has seen a 13.91 per cent increase to reach 111,000 in the same period.
Measuring engagement through the average number of Facebook users who are liking, commenting or sharing content during the campaign, Mr Abbott continues to lead with more than 70,000 to Mr Rudd's 38,000.
Of the more than 1 million interactions with both leaders' Facebook pages and those of the Liberal and Labor parties, Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party have each attracted a clear majority with both at 32 per cent.
Mr Rudd has seen 17 per cent of Facebook interactions while the Labor Party's aggressive strategy has resulted in attracting 19 per cent of interactions so far in the campaign.
Australian Greens leader Senator Christine Milne has seen an interaction rate of 8.49 per cent during the campaign.
Both campaigns continue to follow the example of US President Barack Obama, considered by many to be the leader of political engagement on social media.
Mr Abbott's most talked about posts include a photo of the Opposition Leader and his wife Margie, celebrating reaching 50,000 fans for his Facebook page and another attacking Mr Rudd for using notes during the first debate.
A post supporting marriage equality was Mr Rudd's most popular alongside another linking to an ad critical of Mr Abbott for saying that he would do things that will hurt the electorate.
Ms Milne's most engaging topics have been her exclusion from the leaders' debates and support of asylum seekers.
Facebook Australia's Mia Garlick said local political leaders were following the example of overseas campaigns and engaging effectively in social media politics.
"This is election is really the one where social media has become not just a small thing over on the side," she said. "It is part and parcel of everyday campaigning now and you were seeing that even before the election was called, with Kevin Rudd posting the selfie on Instagram when he cut himself shaving."
She said both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott had increased their social media output markedly and that sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were likely to be tools of choice for voter engagement.
"Earlier this year we ran some election boot camps with all of the main political parties in Canberra so they would have information about to connect and engage with voters on the site," Ms Garlick said.