This is the final in a series of five posts in which I have shared analysis of how the the recent federal election (#elxn42) played out online. While I expect I will write a fair bit about the election over the coming weeks and months, this series specifically shares data analysis covering the entire election period.
In this post I look at content production and social media participation among candidates (not including party leaders) among the two main parties (Conservatives and Liberals). I know that limiting my analysis eliminates important social media analysis of other parties and participants. The decision is not one about anti-democracy; it’s about making sure I use what available evening time I have to conduct a meaningful analysis.
Analysis was conducted using 76insights. 76insights examines tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc.. as social objects and makes it possible to more easily analyze patterns of social media behaviour and the impact of social objects. Most candidates maintained active Twitter streams and/or Facebook profiles. Relatively few leveraged other platforms, hence my focus on Twitter and Facebook in this post.
Be sure to follow the digital activities of our newly-elected MPs on Our Digital Parliament.
- Twitter is about timely communication and amplification
- Facebook is about reflection and object permanence
- Publishing content is only one piece of the puzzle
Twitter is about timely communication and amplification
Some people questioned the relevance of one social media platform over another during the election. The fact is, every platform dominated in a particular and complementary function — even though many candidates don’t (or didn’t) seem to understand this and missed opportunities and harness the power available to them.
Twitter dominated in timely communication and amplification. This was particularly evident surrounding breaking news and significant events such as the debates where there was a window of interaction-opportunity. That was Twitter’s strength, though not its only role. It also served to mobilize support, keep supporters up to date and highlight activities as they unfolded.
The Conservatives issued 22K tweets between August 2 through October 21 (I included the extra days to capture post election wind-down). What does that look like? I created the following graph with 76insights. It shows a Twitter-blue dot for each tweet issued with the x-axis indicating the day, and the y-axis a logarithmic scale showing each tweet’s interaction count (the sum of retweets and favorites).
Conservative candidates attracted 136K interactions, meaning the average Conservative tweet was retweeted and/or favorited six times. In all, 6.7K tweets attracted no interactions (that’s the solid line spanning the graph just above the date. Above that line is the line representing the tweets which only attracted 1 interaction… 3.8K of them.
Jason Kenney and Rob Nicholson issued the most-popular tweets; Kenney with the top four, seven of the top 10 and 38 of the top 50. His number one tweet attracted 616 interactions. Lisa Raitt makes her first appearance in position 13, Michelle Rempel at 27, Joe Oliver at 34 and Chris Alexander at 37.
The following is how the Conservative’s Twitter activity maps on a linear interaction scale.
Liberal candidates were much more active on social media. They issued 440K tweets with an average interaction rank of 5 (21K with 0, 13K with 1). Catherine McKenna’s election night tweet thanking Paul Dewar for his service and acknowledging the big shoes she has to fill as the newly elected MP for Ottawa Centre attracted 727 interaction for the pole position. The remainder of the top 10 Liberal tweets saw a better mix of candidates including Kent Hehr, Brooke Malinoski, Marc Garneau and Ralph Goodale.
How much did Liberal candidates work Twitter? The graph that follows shows their election day activity (only October 19), just over 2K tweets which attracted 14K interactions (average of 7/tweet) on a logarithmic y-axis. In one day they issued nearly 10% of the tweets issued by the Conservatives over the entire 78 day campaign. Notice how the level of interaction increases over the course of the day with some of the latest tweets attracting some of the strongest interactions.
Facebook is about reflection and object permanence
Facebook dominated in reflections and longer-term engagement. This allowed for higher interaction numbers and a greater degree of (social) object permanence.
Facebook is more of a community gathering and community building space rather than a communication platform. So, posts tend to have a longer shelf life creating more opportunities for people to notice them, respond to them and even return for additional rounds of interaction.
The Conservatives issued 15K Facebook posts between August 2 through October 21. The following graph shows a Facebook-blue dot for each published post. The x-axis indicates the day and the y-axis a logarithmic scale showing each post’s interaction count (the sum of likes, shares and comments).
Conservative Facebook posts attracted a total of 730K interactions (1.3K posts attracted zero interactions, 686 attracted only one interaction). The average post attracted 49 interactions.
It’s interesting to note the activity on the extreme right which is election day and immediately after. Notice that not only is there less activity, there are significantly fewer posts. by the candidates. This is understandable given the campaign is over and there were significant losses in the Conservative camp. However, this hole reflects this disappearance of candidates without thank you messages to their volunteers and supporters. This is poor form and bad for the political long-game.
Now, consider the following graph that shows a linear interaction scale. Notice how most of the content is clustered at the bottom of the scale rather than more distributed the way the linear Twitter graph (above) appears. There is a prominent reason for that.
Notice the one outlier dot at the top of the graph. That’s the most-popular Conservative candidate Facebook post. It was issued by Luc Berthold, the candidate for Mégantic-L’Érable. His September 17 “We demand the face discovered at the ceremonies of citizenship. Share if you agree!” mini-essay has attracted… wait for it… 4.5K likes, 45K shares and 868 comments for an interaction score of 50.8K. The second most-popular, from Jason Kenney, attracted a “paltry” 11.8K.
As with Twitter, Jason Kenney captured 7 of the top-10 FB interaction scores. Others in the top-10 include David Wilks and Joan Crockatt.
Over the course of the campaign, Liberal candidates issued 43K Facebook posts which attracted 1.3M interactions (5.5K zero, 2.2K 1). That puts their average interaction per post at 30, 25% lower than the average interaction per the Conservative post. Sometimes putting out more content doesn’t necessarily encourage greater interest or interaction.
Ralph Goodale issued the most-popular Facebook post. His August 7 “Mr Harper is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts!” post attracted 3.4K interactions. Two other Goodale posts made the top-10. Mark Gerretson’s election night “Thank you.” earned 2.2K interactions. Also making the top-10 are Robert-Falcon Ouellete, Matt Grant, Ali Ehsassi, Scott Brison and Ginette Petitpas Taylor.
The following graph shows Liberal candidate Facebook activity and resulting interactions (logarithmic scale) on election day, October 19.
Publishing content is only one piece of the puzzle
Pushing your message is only one part of an effective campaign and relationship-building strategy. Ultimately, success in social media depends heavily on how social and attentive the individual is. That means making a serious effort to respond to questions and comments addressed to you on all platforms. It also means seeking out relevant issues-mentions so that you (or one of your team members) can proactively participate.
I haven’t taken time to go through the minutiae of candidate social media activity and interactions. That degree of analysis takes a fair bit of time and energy. However, I will be re-starting my digital makeover series during the new session of parliament. I’ll make that part of my routine.