The climate philanthropist was a lightning rod for Liberal Party criticism due to his backing of “teal” independents, but on social media, his messaging was influential and incisive.
The son of Australia’s first billionaire, Simon Holmes a Court launched Climate 200 in the lead up to the 2019 federal election as a way to back candidates committed to climate action, integrity in politics and gender equality.
For the 2022 campaign, the group raised over $12 million and used it to back 23 independent candidates. These include Dr Monique Ryan, Zoe Daniel, Kylea Tink and Allegra Spender.
The crowdfunded initiative received donations from every electorate in the country, with 11,500 donors in total. One third of these came from rural and regional areas.
As well as appearing in the media, Holmes a Court waged an aggressive anti-Liberal campaign on Twitter. But just how much influence did he have?
RMIT FactLab studied Holmes a Court’s Twitter engagements (likes and retweets) and found his strategy resonated online and that his commentary on the election cut through more than most party leaders’.
FactLab analysed how the millionaire’s support for the climate independents’ played out online. This included:
using Twitter to launch counterattacks on the Liberal Party; and
an advertising strategy on Facebook (via Climate 200) that eclipsed the Liberals in terms of reach (potential audience) and impressions (times an advert was seen).
Holmes a Court was proflic on Twitter during the campaign, posting 1,858 times (including retweets, or shares of other people’s content) between April 1 and May 21.
Many of these were counterattacks to ‘negative’ portrayals of him in the conservative media outlets like The Daily Telegraph, Sky News and The Australian. He also turned ‘attack’ pieces in some media into opportunities to explain Climate 200.
His posts had a strong anti-Coalition stance and he did not hold back from directly communicating with the accounts of leading Liberals like Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Dave Sharma and Tim Wilson.
This is in stark contrast to the messaging from the candidates he was backing, who were largely positive throughout the campaign.
Holmes a Court’s Twitter following grew by 7000 followers during the election campaign, and was more than 94,000 on the Monday following the election.
That is significantly less than the followers that key politicians like Scott Morrison (660,400), Anthony Albanese (384,200) and Adam Bandt (224,200) have, but is comparable to followings of Barnaby Joyce (98,800), Pauline Hanson (87,500) and Craig Kelly (75,300).
FactLab compared the number of retweets achieved by their accounts during the election (April 1 to May 18), and found that Holmes A Court consistently outperformed most party leaders. He was also more active than most party leaders on the platform.
His tweet with the most engagements - 8610 likes and 2051 retweets - began as a correspondence with Australian Electoral Commission regarding false information printed against him in the News Corp media.
In another tweet with more than 6000 likes, he directly called out the Guide Dogs after their CEO appeared in an ad for Mr Frydneberg. “A form of corruption if you ask me,” he wrote.
Climate 200 has spent more than any other non-party advertiser this election (between $401,500 and $530,200), according to QUT's PoliDashboard Facebook Political Ads Module,
Its adverts were seen more than 17 million times, which is significantly higher than other non-party affiliated advertiser.
According to Google Transparency Report for Political Advertising in Australia, Climate 200 launched 28 election campaign ads on Google and YouTube supporting independents between March 29 and May 21, at a total cost of $33,000.
Climate 200 adverts outperformed their opponents on Facebook, often recording double the views of Liberal party ads.
Climate 200’s most-successful campaign - “Kids deserve a better planet” - recorded over half a million impressions. A Climate 200 advert featuring Zali Steggall drew between 450,000 and 500,000 impressions.
In the allocated time period, the top 10 amplifiers of Mr Holmes tweets by follower count were:
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