It’s been one of the most unpredictable elections in the history of the state. Most would perceive that seismic change is happening now, or certainly in the coming years.
To understand more, at Truehawk Media we tracked published press and online within Ireland and social via Twitter throughout the campaign. What we found were variances between what you could call classic or one-way channels (press and online/web) versus interactive social channels (in this case, Twitter). This analysis focuses on the period January 23rd following the first Virgin Media TV debate and tracked coverage up to the closing of polling stations. We collected almost 526k related media items in all (13k on press and online, and 512.5k posts and 42.6 million interactions on Twitter).
Throughout, we witnessed the huge potential of social for voters to learn, discuss and share ideas. Bias and representation were focal points and frustrations for some in relation to classic news sources. So too advertising spend on websites and social platforms by parties and their freedom online from the moratorium. (For this reason, we focused solely on Twitter which prohibits political ad spend.) Meanwhile, we have witnessed the probable impact of the phenomenal volumes of activity on Twitter in unexpected ways.
We found a few key trends that we’ll explore in this post and further updates:
– Personalities over party brands for winning votes
– One-way and two-way media told different stories
– TV was the biggest driver of debate across channels
– Twitter gains for positive and consistent messaging
A quick snapshot of the contrasting volumes below show the very different cycles across press and online versus Twitter. The sidebar representing volume shows the massive traffic occurring on Twitter in comparison to press and online. Across all channels, the main peaks in activity were driven by the televised leaders’ debates, and yes, double and triple screening seems to be how we consume key media events now.
Looking purely at party brand performance by volume, Fine Gael led throughout, and that position was relatively unchallenged throughout the analysis period across each channel (perhaps not surprising being the incumbent).
By party, Fine Gael obtained the highest share of media voice at 29.9%, followed by Fianna Fáil at 22.9% and Sinn Féin at 21.6%.
Social Democrats had an exceptionally strong voice on Twitter but were on par with Solidarity-People Before Profit on press and online. While they had a successful campaign outcome, the share of media voice didn’t translate in full.
Independents had phenomenal results at the polls versus the unpaid media exposure we examined, perhaps indicating their strength is gained on the ground and away from media.
Insights by commentators about Facebook spend and activity by party, such as the Business Post’s Rachel Lavin, reflect the ranking we have seen here, but as we drill further into results in our analysis, party voice didn’t equate to success. Independents were stated to have used Facebook to connect to their communities, which fills the gap we revealed in our analysis of other channels.
When we examine performance by specific party leader in terms of volume, we see a different story. The chart below shows the majority voice Mary Lou McDonald had on Twitter, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gaining just 23% share of voice overall versus the other two leaders here. The results here indicate that Twitter conversation was a more influential factor in Mary Lou’s success and that leader versus party performance had greater sway at the polling booth.
A further look at Twitter performance shows an even greater disparity between Mary Lou and the other key party leaders. She was the conversation among party leaders with a 72% share of interactions. Thejournal.ie’s Sean Murray saw a similar trend on Facebook as Mary Lou’s content was more engaging for users.
To consider cut through of campaigns, we tracked some of the key slogans (and variants) used by parties and their supporters over the period and found 99% of results (from a cumulative 42.5k related media items) appeared on Twitter. The Green Party’s ‘Want Green, Vote Green’ slogan won out, followed by the Social Democrat’s ‘Vote for better/Hope for better’ slogans (combined).
Use of hashtags/slogans also peaked for the Greens and the Social Democrats on voting day with 1,248 and 1,222 tweets respectively.
Away from Twitter, Sinn Féin’s messaging had stronger positioning in press and online, as their stance on a united Ireland and theme of ‘Change’ outranked all. This was followed by Fianna Fáil’s ‘An Ireland for all’ and then by Fine Gael’s ‘A future to look forward to’. While some attention had been paid to negative campaigning tactics, notably by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, these did not resonate strongly.
*Note, there is some crossover of slogans by parties and supporters across the left but in most cases the associated slogan/hashtag is attributed to the respective party stated.
While Fine Gael as the existing government were always most likely to achieve high volume of coverage across all channels and media types (we saw similar results across national press, regional press and online media), our examination of leader performance and cut through of party slogans indicates the campaigns and parties that resonated on Twitter.
One critique of Sinn Féin’s campaigning could be attributed to the lack of clarity of party slogans which didn’t play out clearly on Twitter. However, their engagement levels were stronger than Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Meanwhile, the Green Party and Social Democrats are to be commended for the focused messaging they and their supporters communicated which saw them achieving gains at the polls.
We’ll be sharing more about our findings over the next couple of days.
Date period: Thursday 23rd January from 00:01 until 21:59 Saturday 8th February 2020 when polls closed.
Channels: Press, Online, Twitter. (Broadcast and other social channels were not included in this analysis).
Brief: General election key words, political parties, politicians, campaign slogans, and election hashtags.