I’m currently assessing the use of social media in the 2015 General Election, you can read my analysis here.


Update – 17.09.2014 – It’s the day before the big vote, nerves are high regardless of what side of the vote you sit on! I was expecting a late surge from both sides on social media this week, certainly from an official viewpoint, but things have been carrying on as per usual. Yes continue to churn out superior imagery across the platforms and have a generally better grasp of using social media effectively, while Better Together continue to lack the style required to achieve standout and lose out in all areas. Each set of official accounts have continued to grow, however Yes will cross the line with the biggest overall audiences:

  • Yes Facebook – 308,797
  • Better together Facebook – 210,567
  • Yes Twitter – 96,640
  • Better Together Twitter – 41,296

While audience numbers aren’t the most solid metric around, it does at least show a much wider participation in social from Yes supporters. Throughout my research it has been apparent that Yes supporters have embraced social media on a larger scale than those of Better Together. Any time I’ve gone to Twitter to ask a question about the referendum, I’ve had more responses from Yes supporters by far.

Why no late surge from either camp in the final few days (perhaps there will be something very last minute on the 19th?) When I say surge I mean a new approach, something clever to really grab attention. It could be down to a lack of ideas or more likely the realisation that they’ve now probably said all they can say, there’s no really new message to spark off something creative. Social has done its job already in many respects. But has it actually been influential in helping people to make a decision?

Influential or not? 

When I first started asking that question on Twitter, the majority of people would tell that there was far too much ‘noise’ to make it a truly useful tool. That has changed and I asked the same question on 12.09. I received over 200 responses in the space of a few minutes, the vast majority of people were being positive about the ‘usefullness’ of social media in this case. Many cited that it had opened them up to information they would otherwise have missed. Distaste with mainstream media (mainly from Yes supporters) has led to people using social media even more in an attempt to uncover information and opinion. While there is no science to this, its been an interesting shift from people telling me it wasn’t helping them to decide to stating it has been useful. It would be amazing to carry out a poll of voters to see what media channel (s) had played the biggest part for them. Not going to happen of course!

What are the lessons for future political campaigning via social media?  

We’ve never seen (in the UK at least) social media being used so widely in relation to a political decision. Global Twitter trends have been created which is an amazing thing to see. There’s no doubt it’s 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?

Social media is such a public channel that when done badly, it can set a campaign back in a big way!

Other sources

Theres some analysis over the winner of the ‘social referendum’ from Rory Cellan-Jones over on the BBC and The Mirror looks at the growth of each side’s accounts.

I’ve had a ball

My research and observations around social media use in the referendum have led to me doing media work for STV, BBC World Service, The Drum, Heart FM and Sky News. I’m on a BBC World Service program at 4pm today (17.09) and will be working with various outlets on the big night. More on info on my media work to date can be seen here. I’m available for indyref comment if you need a marketers view. It’s been fun! Thanks to everyone who has read my posts and helped me with insight via Twitter.

Over to you Scotland

I hope whatever way you vote, you’ve been able to make your decision in a non-pressured and informed manner. Whatever happens, we all have to embrace it…

See below for the original post. 

Back in April, I assessed the social media use by the Yes and Better Together Scottish independence referendum campaigns. My research was fully focussed on the official activity and Yes romped to a 4-0 victory. This time round, I’m going to look at the official use, but also the use of social media by supporters of either side of the debate.  I’ll take a look at each campaign’s use of social media and crown a winner, based on my opinion of how social media should be done and any available stats. I will start with the official campaign accounts and cover the same areas as last time round with a couple of additions.

Visual Content

Imagery is vital to social media success, in my last assessment, Yes were the clear leaders here, with higher quality and more impactful images being produced across the board. Lets take a look at the current use of imagery from both sides, I’ve taken what I believe to be the best two examples from each campaign.




Both of these images are nicely styled and visually impactful, while delivering succinct information well. Yes have clearly taken the time to think about design and that is admirable. This was apparent in my last assessment and they’ve actually improved their use since then.

Stats for the top image taken from Facebook – 3,895 likes, 193 comments and 733 shares and the bottom image – 867 likes, 36 comments and 212 shares.

Better Together



The top image here is a pretty average use of design, it doesn’t really grab the eye and while it does contain useful info, it could be delivered in a more impactful manner. This image is actually a template that Better Together seem to be using regularly, which is a pretty lazy approach and makes for a dull experience for the user. The bottom image is a nice idea and does deliver some key quotes, however the dark nature of it makes it all seem a bit grave.

Stats for the top image taken from Facebook – 962 likes, 807 comments and 305 shares and the bottom image – 1324 likes, 137 comments and 567 shares.


The stats from the images on both sides are actually very close, Yes wins on Likes, while Better Together win on comments (comments are from supporters of both campaigns), with Yes winning on shares – the best way of spreading a message on Facebook. If you look across the Facebook posting of each campaign, response varies wildly, so while important, the deciding factor here for me comes down to design and Yes are clearly continuing to nutmeg Better Together on that front. This shows a better understanding of social media and a commitment to using it well. Yes have far more custom imagery on show, while Better together often use images of newspapers, which is a pretty rudimentary approach. Yes have megged the centre-half and slotted it past the keeper here.

Yes 1 – Better Together – 0


I didn’t assess the use of video last time round and many people requested that I include it in the next instalment, so I’ll do just that. Video is hard to gauge as both sides have produced some nicely put together pieces as well as some very basic efforts. I’ve chosen two of the best and assessed them.


This is a nicely shot video and takes the emotional approach, very much making it about people. I’m not convinced that it is hugely impactful as it appeals more to the heart that than the head. Aside from the nice shooting, it is a fairly basic approach.

Better Together

This video is a very nice piece of work, it gives info in a nice graphical style, is stylish and works well, using all the benefits that video offers. It is a little on the long side though, but other than that, it’s a thumbs up.

Views on YouTube for the Yes video – 41,525 views (posted 6 days ago) and for the Better Together video – 12,348 views (posted May 12th).


The video views here are one thing, but I’m keen to award a goal here based on the use of video itself and with that in mind, Better Together have risen like a Salmon (not, not Salmond) at the back post and bulleted a header into the net.

Yes 1 – Better Together – 1

Update – 04.09 – 09:49 – Hold on a minute! The linesman is waving his flag! It appears there was foul on the keeper. A lot of people have asked how I can possibly award this to Better Together due to the #PatronisingBTLady video debacle. Now while the video in terms of its quality isn’t bad, the messaging in it has caused a major uproar. Just look at the tweets relating to it (410,000). I’m not sure I can legitimately give Better Together a goal here as this example shows that they’ve missed the mark and video has been the medium for that sitter. However, I’m not going to give Yes the goal as this isn’t related to something they’ve created, it’s a mistake by Better Together. So, I’ll remove the goal from Better Together, but won’t award a goal to Yes, effectively voiding this round. Trust me, I’ve just put serious thought into the best way to resolve this and I see that is the fairest way (as do my colleagues). That means we are back to:

Yes 1 – Better Together – 0


Social media is a communications platform and while crafting great updates is key, we need to look at the response to the public from both sides. Are our teams using social in a two-way fashion or just broadcasting?


Are they answering questions, or participating in conversations on Facebook?  

Ive looked at the last 10 Facebook posts on the Yes page and there are no responses at all to any questions, comments etc. This was the case in my last post. As I said back then, it is great to allow people to freely debate and discuss, but some interaction from the campaign would be nice to see while also potentially extended the debate.The opportunity to supply relevant information based on comments etc is being missed.

Are they answering questions, or participating in conversations on Twitter?  

I can’t find any evidence of this, which is a shame as last time round, they were being active and responding to tweets, it appears to have dropped off the agenda.

Better Together

Are they answering questions, or participating in conversations on Facebook? 

Negative, this was the case last time round too. Unanswered questions galore.

Are they answering questions, or participating in conversations on Twitter?  

Nope! Same as last time again. The megaphone approach is in play here.


Both sides had the ball at their feet in the six yard box here, keeper stranded and blasted it wide. No goals for either. Tut tut.


Another addition to this update is a look at the use of hashtags by each side. I’m not talking about #voteyes etc, but hashtags that have been devised to drive conversation or encourage people to be active. This is very hard to assess due to the sheer volume of activity, and it can be hard to attribute in terms of who started the tag i.e. official Vs supporter, so I’ve based this purely on current activity, which is the most relevant, especially at this time.


Yes Scotland are currently using #askemeanything to urge supporters to allow undecideds etc to ask them questions about the debate. Now that tag is far from exclusive to their campaign (Reddit pretty much own it), but it is being used widely for the purpose intended by Yes.

Better Together

I can’t find any evidence of specific hashtag use by Better Together. It is very hard to dig into all activity due to sheer volume, but nothing is apparent. If anyone can correct me, then let me know and I’ll take a look.


Yes score here, a sclaffed shot that goes through the keeper’s legs, but a goal none-the-less.

Yes 2 – Better Together – 0

Account Size

Now while you’ll hear me preach about building a relevant audience and not getting to caught up on growing a huge one, it’s still valid to look at the size of each campaign’s following/fanbase on the platforms they’re most active on – Facebook and Twitter. Facebook used to supply a ‘talking about this’ stat which looked at how many of the fans of the page were actually liking, commenting and sharing the posts. This has now been removed which means for Facebook, all I can look at is their overall fan numbers.

Stats for Twitter are harder to come across, and often come down to ‘reach’ which is a low quality metric, but I thought it was important not to base it purely on follower count. I’ve always liked the data socialmention.com returns, and I’ve taken their ‘reach’ figure for each Twitter account and used it here. Their definition of reach is ‘a measure of the range of influence – the number of of unique authors divided by the total of all mentions’.


  • Facebook fans – 246,160 (increase of 101,656 since my last post)
  • Twitter followers – 69,934 (increase of 31,128)
  • socialmention reach figure for Twitter – 98% (decrease of 3%)


  • Facebook fans – 176,830 (32,326 increase since my last post)
  • Twitter followers – 33,903 (increase of 12.315)
  • socialmention reach figure for Twitter – 32% (6% increase)


Yes have skinned three players before blasting a shot into the top corner here! Volume of fans and followers and increase figures far surpass Better Together.

Yes 3 – Better Together – 0

A victory for Yes

The winner of the ‘official’ match is Yes, as it was the last time around. Better Together had the ball in the net until the goal was chopped off for foul play, but in the way, they just couldn’t stand up to the threat from the Yes team.

Why are Yes so much better? Some would say it comes down to financial resources or expertise of the teams behind the scenes. Without access to that info, it wouldn’t be right for me to speculate.

Activity from supporters of either campaign

The level of debate and campaigning on social media by supporters of both sides has been huge, however, has one side been more creative and innovative? I’m not looking at the same variables as the ‘official’ match as there are far too many splinter accounts etc to assess, instead, I’m looking to see what set of supporters have made the best use of social media and web technology to communicate their feelings and support?

Yes supporters Creativity

You’ll have seen the Lady Alba video by Dr Zara Gladman? If not here it is:

Close to 100,000 views is noting to sniff at and that will be extended by the video sitting on many other YouTube channels and social media pages. A lot of effort had gone into this and while it may not be everyone’s cup of Scottish Blend, it certainly got people talking and attracted a lot of media coverage, reinforcing the message. Zara has also created Lady Alba, The Morning After, which you can view here.

National Collective 

The National Collective  is a group of artists and creatives that are backing independence. They’ve created quite a stir and have been using some great visuals to convey their messages. They started the #yesbecause tag that was a full Twitter trend and has been used over 1.8 million times to date. Impressive!



As covered above, this video from Better Together has caused major uproar and along with it a number of memes and videos. Here’s one of the memes that has been getting serious attention on Twitter:


You can see the amount of imagery that has been created mocking this in this Twitter search. And there’s the inevitable musical parody too…

Better Together

I’ve spent a long time searching and I can’t find anything that can be classed as creative or innovative. If you can direct me to anything, please do.

The supporter winner is Yes. Congrats!

Well there we have it folks, Yes have won from an official and non-official perspective. Is social media playing an influential part in the referendum? That is a very difficult question to answer and it can be very hard to cut through the noise. It’s over to the people of Scotland to decide. I’m still undecided, time is ticking…

What do you think of the use of social media by Yes or Better Together? Have you been getting involved with the debate on social? I am being unfair to either side? Let me know in the comments section below. 

April’s post is here. I’ve been on Scotland Tonight and recorded a radio show for BBC World Service all about social media use in the referendum recently, you can listen to the show here.

Contact Mike with any questions, or use the comment area below.

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