I’m currently assessing the use of social media in the 2015 General Election, you can read my analysis here.
The vote has passed, the UK remains intact. Many are happy, many are sad, however this will be a catalyst for change, it has to be. Social media has played a key part in this referendum process, with both campaigns using it an official capacity, and supporters of both sides using it en masse to show their allegiance and spread their feelings and thoughts. I’ve looked at the use of it from both sides, discussed it across the media and have very much enjoyed carrying out this research. What conclusions can we draw from about the actual part that social media plays in political campaigns and voting?
It’s not a true gauge of the likely final result
Why this may not be a surprise, the figures were still banded about the press – ‘If this was a social media vote, it would show 79% in favour of Yes’ and so on. While this ranged from 65% to Yes, right up to 86% (figures from Brandwatch), it was never near a true reflection of the final result. In this case, Yes supporters have been far more vocal on social media, and the official Yes accounts accrued larger audiences, so any data directly linked to social was always going to be skewed. It must also be remembered that while the age-range of active social media users is wide and growing, it doesn’t represent the full spectrum. Perhaps we can keep these headlines from appearing in future campaigns.
It is a valid way for people to access information
Throughout the process I’ve been taking to Twitter to ask people how they’ve been using social media, many people cited that it was a key tool for information and content that they may not otherwise have been aware of or had access to. A number of people stated that distrust of traditional media had pushed them further into social media in order to find the required information.
Discussions aren’t always the most helpful tool
The sheer noise that was created on social media by people discussing the referendum was immense! The 24 hours preceding the vote alone saw over 2 million related tweets sent (source – BBC Trending)! People often told me that cutting through that to find opinions or answers related to their queries was near impossible. This ties in with the previous point in that people got most value from it as an information finding source. This not to say that there were no useful conversations of course, however the volume made things hard to decipher.
It fosters creativity and humour
This has been a very serious and emotional decision for the people of Scotland, but in true Scottish style, we’ve injected a lot of humour to proceedings. The parody Twitter account, @AngrySalmond has been a smash hit, while numerous memes, videos and songs have created mass fodder for those looking to lighten the tone!
It brings people to together to discuss and debate
The referendum has spanned the globe and social media has brought people together from far and wide to discuss it. Particularly around support for a Yes vote, however pleas from overseas for the union to remain intact were apparent. Many global Twitter trends were created and on the night, it was the number one global trend.
Lessons to be learned
There’s no doubt social media is an important part of the comms mix for campaigning, and anyone looking to use it in the future can learn a lot from observing the use of it by both the Yes and Better Together camps, and perhaps more so, the supporters of each side. What are the key considerations for any party etc?
- Can they create great content and at a strong enough frequency?
- Do they truly understand the key uses and nuances of each social platform?
- Is there enough resource to be truly communicative and responsive? Reacting to real-time events with a clever response is hugely powerful. Social media is about a two-way dialogue and while both sides in the indyref have tried to achieve this, they’ve not participated at a great level.
- Is there enough expertise available? A key factor in this is the ability to analyse what is working well and effectively.
- Do they know how to handle a disaster such as #BTpatronisinglady?
That’s a wrap for now. The world has been watching. Scotland can be very proud. How has social media played a part in your indyref?