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

As the Scottish independence referendum polling day of September 18th looms, the battle between the Yes and Better Together campaign intensifies, but who is making the best use of social media to communicate their campaign messages, sway opinion and win support? In this post, 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’ve based this on the official, central accounts as they should be a key focus for each campaign. I may look at further accounts in the future. Ding, ding, round one…

Visual Content

The key piece of content we’ve been seeing used by both sides is imagery, and with the social web becoming more visual that ever, this makes perfect sense. When using imagery on social media, your aim is to get a message across in a simple, visually appealing fashion. You want people to understand your point and be urged to take action – either by interacting with your post, sharing it or being compelled to take further action. Lets take a look at some examples from each campaign.

Yes 

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There’s a strong message via the quote used in this image and the fact that the source of the quote is also stated gives it stature. It’s a short, sharp message and easy to digest. The design is effective yet simple and the overall quality of the image is strong.

Stats from the Facebook post that included this image – 208 shares, 50 comments and 820 likes.

Better Together 

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This image is used with the same aim of the Yes example – to get a key point across in the form of a quote. While a quote is a quote, it is a longer read than the Yes example, and the yellow text is a little tricky to read. The actual resolution of the image is terrible and gives it a cheap feel. They’ve also made a boo-boo by not having their campaign logo within the image, it’s always good to reinforce the brand and the key campaign message, as the Yes example has.

Stats from the Facebook post that included this image – 447 shares, 772 comments and 1140 likes.

Winner?

Well, the stats would clearly sway this in the favour of Better Together, but this can be misleading, as if you look across various posts that use imagery across the two Facebook Pages, you’ll see varying results. I’m awarding this round to Yes, due to the succinct nature of the message, overall design appeal and quality (worth noting that the design is still far from staggering) and reinforcement of campaign branding and key message.

Yes 1 – Better Together 0

Current trends for visual content on the web are focused around heavily stylised design with considered use of typography. Here are some further examples from the Yes campaign:

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And Better Together:

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Winner?

Sorry Better Together, but Yes have ducked and dived and jabbed their way to a winning round. There’s a lot of design consideration involved with the majority of Yes’s imagery, while Better Together show glimpses (the Eddie Izzard image for example), their overall output leaves a lot to be aesthetically desired.

Yes 2 – Better Together 0

What could each campaign be doing better?

Both campaigns are using imagery across Facebook and Twitter. When tweeting imagery, they aren’t making use of the fact that if an image is sized to 1023 x 535 pixels, the full image will be displayed in the news feed. This is a great opportunity to get a succinct message across, cutting through people’s busy feeds. At the moment, neither campaign is adapting their imagery to reflect this, which means they’re losing impact.

There’s also great opportunity to be more reactive with imagery, acting quickly on the latest poll result, overblown claim or campaign chaos with a clever, punchy image is a great tactic for harnessing buzz and taking the upper-hand. While both campaigns have dabbled, their reaction speeds are pretty slow. More time on the speed-bag required.

Communication

Social media is a communications platform, and for any political campaign, it represents an opportunity to converse with voters and the wider world. When blended with the more traditional channels, social media could be the difference between success and failure. For that to happen, the content has to be compelling, but there must be a focus on actually using the channel to converse, and not just broadcast (an age-old social media principle). Are our fighters acting in a two-way fashion?

Yes

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

I looked at the last 10 posts on the Yes page, and there’s not one response from the Yes Page to any questions or comments. Debates and conversations between users of the Page are lengthy and frequent, and while it’s sensible to leave discussions to freely develop, there are opportunities for clarification and providing deeper information that Yes could be capitalising on.

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

Yes, and at a fairly regular frequency. Often, Yes will look to lead people to further information within their official site, which is a simple, yet effective way of informing people.

Better Together

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

No, like Yes, they’re not participating, just posting and letting the users debate.

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

Negative. There are a number of questions being asked, with no reply. Bad move.

Winner?

While neither campaign are conversing on Facebook, Yes’s conversational use of Twitter gives them the point here!

Yes 3 – Better Together 0

It’s worth pointing out that particularly on Facebook, there are a number of people who regularly have strong voices in any debated or discussions, they may be officially attached to either campaign, but regardless of that, the official presence should be seen to interact, but be careful not to control. The levels of debate on each Facebook Page is staggering with posts regularly hitting over 1000 replies.

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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. In the case of Facebook, I’ve looked at their ‘talking about this figure’ which tells us what portion of their Facebook fans are creating a ‘story’ from their content, a story being a like, comment or share.

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’.

Yes

  • Facebook fans – 144,504
  • Talking about this – 24,020 which is equal to 16% of fans creating a ‘story’
  • Twitter followers – 38,806
  • socialmention reach figure – 102%

Better Together

  • Facebook fans – 117,036
  • Talking about this – 10,296 which is equal to 9% of fans creating a ‘story’
  • Twitter followers – 21,588
  • socialmention reach figure – 26%

Winner?

The figures don’t lie, and while reach isn’t worth a jot without action, Yes are clearly amplifying their voice further on Twitter and pushing more of their Facebook fans to act on the content. The final round goes to Yes.

Yes 4 – Better Together 0

Crushing defeat for Better Together

Based on my analysis, Yes are pounding Better Together as things stand. Their use of social media is smarter, at a higher frequency and is having a wider impact. You must bear in mind that I can only analyse what is publicly available and part of this analysis is down to my opinion of their work, but I have endeavoured to give a balanced and fair view. Better Together need to up their game when it comes to social media use, but it will take them some serious time and application to turn it around. I’m going to revisit this analysis in August. I’d really love to see data post-referendum on what impact social media had on the outcome (as far as you can tell), but I’m not convinced how much data the campaigns are collecting, for example, the links both camps send out that lead back to their respective sites aren’t tracked.

In the name of transparency…

I’m currently undecided on how I’ll use my vote come September 18th. Just thought it was best to get it out there.

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? Let me know in the comments section below.

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

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Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/t-ohashi/ used under creative commons.

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