How VoteSwap went viral

27 April 2015. Updated 12 May 2015

We launched VoteSwap quietly on Friday 10 April, one month before the election. We didn’t have a media "strategy”. We didn’t even have a press release. We were a group of volunteers who wanted to help Labour and Green supporters work together to beat the Tories – and make a point about our unfair first-past-the-post voting system at the same time. If we were lucky we’d find a few hundred voters willing to swap votes.

But within its first day VoteSwap had received more than 33,000 visits. After one week visits had hit 187,000, and more than 5,000 people had pledged to swap votes. By polling day this had grown to 500,000 visits – 430,000 of them from unique visitors – and more than 21,000 voters had swapped their votes.

VoteSwap visitor statistics - line graph

Initial takeoff happened through Twitter, with tweeters such as the Economist’s Jeremy Cliffe piquing interest. A quick-off-the-mark Buzzfeed post helped too.

But Facebook soon became the source of the great majority of our visitors. Overall, 67% of our visitors found us through social media, and 91% of those came via Facebook. In total, VoteSwap was shared on Facebook 99,000 times.

VoteSwap social media referrals

Such rapid growth also brought challenges. We made some basic mistakes in public. And our simple web setup wasn’t really geared to processing thousands of pledges so we had to race to bolt on more technology in time for polling day. Some postal vote swappers had to drop out because we didn't manage to find them matches in time. Nevertheless, out of 22,700 who applied, we found matches for 21,400.

The final election result was, of course, dismal for everyone who wanted a change of government. But we think VoteSwap made a small, positive difference, and is an experiment that can be built on in the future. We will publish more about how and where people swapped once we've had a chance to analyse this.

Thank you to everyone who took part.