Social media is a great tool for engagement; it enables the target audience to set the agenda and puts the customer in the driving seat of communication. It is both an opportunity and a challenge to any organisation, including political parties. In fact, one may even recognise core democratic elements prevalent in the nature of social media: accountability, instantaneous transparency and electoral empowerment.
So how are UK political parties doing on social media? There are quite a few ways to find it out. To enable statistical accuracy, a recent opinion poll serves as a good benchmark against which other comparisons can be made.
1. Quantitative analysis
Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media platforms in the UK. Adding up the total number of “likes” or followers should give a good impression of how particular parties and their leaders are doing on the social media, in comparison to their opinion poll ratings. The results are rather thought-provoking.
- The Green party is doing much better on Twitter than its opinion poll share suggests. With 33,196 followers it enjoys a 15% Twitter political follower share, compared to only 4% in opinion polls
- Labour could do much better. The number of followers both for the party and for its leader Ed Miliband is proportionately much lower than its opinion poll share would suggest – 13% and 4% lower respectively
- Lib Dems are doing very well on Facebook. The party has 93,657 “likes” which constitutes to 22% of the total political “likes” on the platform. It is 13% higher than the opinion poll would suggest
- When it comes to personalities however, David Cameron has earned an impressive number of 172,331 “likes”, and Nick Clegg comes second with only 84,286 “likes”. Ed Miliband is doing particularly poorly with mere 16,258 “likes”
2. Qualitative analysis
However, social media is more about engagement than follower count. It is important to determine the extent to which politicians really interact with the electorate they are accountable to. Conversocial and Twtrland are useful tools that enable qualitative data measurement: Conversocial creates an index that takes into account the number of Facebook comments and likes relative to the number of posts and fans; Twtrland helps identify the proportion of Twitter replies, retweets and mentions among other more one-directional posts.
- An impressive proportion of 82% of UKIP’s tweets are interactive. And when it comes to party leadership personalities, Green Party’s Natalie Bennett is visibly the most engaging – 55% of her Twitter messages are replies, retweets or mentions
- When it comes to party accounts, Conservatives have the least interactive Twitter presence. Only 19.5% of their tweets are mentions, retweets or replies. As regards party leader accounts, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg comes last – only 18% of his posts are interactive
- Conversocial’s index reveals that the UKIP’s Facebook account is the most interactive as it scores 19.07. As regards party leadership, Green Party’s Natalie Bennett is the most interactive scoring 22.21
- The least dynamic Facebook presence belongs to Labour and UKIP party accounts, both parties scoring an embarrassing 0. Among leaders, Nick Clegg comes last with 0.97
When it comes to social media, no political party has clearly showed its leadership across both Facebook and Twitter and both in quantitative and qualitative terms. All parties still have room for improvement. Nevertheless some key trends do appear.
- Smaller parties are more interactive. The Greens and UKIP are doing very well when it comes to interacting with their electorate. Perhaps it is explained by a lower overall volume of its fan base which makes it more manageable to reply and engage with individuals on a case by case basis.
- Lib Dems are very good in recruiting followers but fail to engage with them. When it comes to the follower count, the party and its leader Nick Clegg have a greater number of followers than one would expect. Nevertheless, the party shows little or no interaction with the electorate.
- Labour is least adaptive to social media communication. Both on Twitter and on Facebook the proportion of its followers is lower than the opinion polls would make us expect. The party also could do much better in its efforts to interact and engage with the electorate.
Those interested in further statistical investigation may find the following data useful: