Facebook Instagram and Twitter are brainwashing tools

Just briefly on Facebook: The importance of social media for the ÖVP

In Sebastian Kurz's social media world, you are greeted by the former Ö3 presenter Peter L. Eppinger. "Welcome on behalf of Team Kurz," he says in a YouTube video. Then Eppinger enumerates the various possibilities with which one can support Kurz online: You can share, like and comment on posts and of course stay informed about current events via Whatsapp. Anyone who dives into the Chancellor's online universe actually gets the feeling of being "up close". In the media, Kurz may be regarded as a "Chancellor of Silence" who only comments on controversies late or not at all; However, one cannot accuse him of a lack of information about his everyday life - on the contrary.

A fancy photo is shared on Instagram at least once a day (72,000 followers), plus the Whatsapp service with a few thousand subscribers who provide updates every few days, a Twitter channel (329,000 followers) and Kurz's Facebook page, which scratches the mark of 800,000 fans.

On par with Strache

Most other politicians can only dream of these values ​​- with the exception of Kurz ’Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who also has almost 800,000 Facebook fans. If you put the number of virtual followers in relation to the number of inhabitants of the respective country, Kurz is clearly ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron (2.3 million followers), Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn (1.4 million) and even before Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (3.5 million). Not to mention the opposition parties in Austria - former Chancellor Christian Kern had just 240,000 Facebook fans.

Two people are primarily responsible for the success of Kurz’s social media strategy: Kristina Rausch and Philipp Maderthaner. You belong to the Federal Chancellor's closest circle of friends - and have been for a decade. Rausch, now 27, joined the team of the current Federal Chancellor at the age of 17, who was chairman of the young ÖVP at the time. She followed him to all of his stations: to the State Secretariat, the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Chancellery and now back to the party, where she heads digital communication.

Social media "happened"

"There was never an official start that we now fully rely on social media," says Rausch about the STANDARD. Rather, a lot "happened" and slowly developed. This could also be due to the fact that a young team is working around Kurz - and the boss himself is social media savvy. "Sebastian Kurz definitely has a focus," confirms Rausch, "he also takes the time to record a video for Facebook." For Kurz, social media are "important", otherwise it would not work: "That has to come from the boss, too."

In addition to Rausch, it is above all Philipp Maderthaner who perfected the Chancellor's online presence. After various positions at the ÖVP, he founded his "Campaigning Bureau" in 2012, and in 2013 he was responsible for the preferential voting campaign for the then State Secretary Sebastian Kurz; In 2017 he was responsible for the entire ÖVP campaign. For Maderthaner, the involvement of the supporters is particularly important. With the "Cam Buildr" his company has developed its own tool to "activate" fans. Rausch also sees in daily work how important it is to ask users to help. "If we specifically ask that people like or forward our posts, we see thousands of interactions, otherwise maybe only a few hundred," says Rausch.

One of these people who voluntarily and unpaidly fights for the cause of Kurz on social media is Gabriele Beierl. If a controversial tweet about Kurz or the ÖVP pops up, it usually doesn't take long for Beierl to speak up. "I come from a highly political family, my father was secretary to Chancellor Julius Raab," Beierl tells STANDARD. She was politically committed herself at the local level until she retired due to a serious illness. Then she started to be more active on social media; researched an illegal pyramid game that was exposed in 2015. Then came Sebastian Kurz's final ascent, and Beierl was immediately enthusiastic and convinced of him.

Now she maintains a Facebook fan page for short and is active on Twitter. Most of the time, she likes it, even if she feels it is "almost work". She rarely writes to political opponents, and the tone of voice on social media bothers her. But she was "convinced" by Kurz and therefore wanted to spread his message.

First the FPÖ, then Kurz

Beierl is not the only one who can be described as a kind of combat poster for Kurz. In the meantime, numerous users are committed to disseminating the ÖVP's concerns free of charge. Before Kurz's ascent, it was above all the freedom people who were able to mobilize in this way.

The party discovered the possibilities of social media early on and built its own parallel universe to get its message across to the people - for example via party-affiliated blogs, the YouTube program FPÖ-TV or, of course, Strache's Facebook page. For a long time, the ÖVP saw such activities as unnecessary - also because it was easier to appear in traditional media.

Incidentally, only Rausch and a second employee are responsible for maintaining Kurz’s channels. "You need people who are fundamentally convinced of this work," says Rausch. In any case, she is looking forward to the future: "I'm already waiting to see what will come after Facebook and Co - or whether it will continue like this now." (Fabian Schmid, March 12, 2019)