Mid-term report for Leinster House – Facebook & Twitter analysis

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Nov 032012

I’ve started blogging this (31st Dáil on Facebook and Twitter and Party flagship accounts) and more to come over the next few days, but here’s the full thing:  Mid-Term Report 2012

In summary:

  • Main party ‘flagship’ accounts:
    • Sinn Féin still way ahead on both Facebook & Twitter accounts support
    • Fine Gael most talked about on Facebook, Labour least
    • Sinn Féin flagship Twitter account most popular, most tweets
    • Fine Gael flagship Twitter account least popular of major parties, fewest tweets too
  •  24thSeanad:
    • Senators more popular on Twitter than on Facebook
    • 67%  on Twitter, average followers 948; updated on average 143 days ago
    • 70% on Facebook, average friends/fans 538; updated on average 151 days ago
    • Labour Senators hold most Facebook support
    • Sinn Féin’s Facebook updates most recent, Fianna Fáil’s least
    • Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil Senators least likely to be on Twitter, Labour & Sinn Féin most
    • Independent Senators take 62% of total Seanad Twitter support (Norris effect!)
    • Sinn Féin’s Twitter updates most recent, Fianna Fáil’s least
    • despite promises of its abolition, both Fine Gael and Labour Senators still reasonably active on Facebook and Twitter, though some have switched off
  • 31stDáil:
    • TDs more popular on Facebook
      • 85% on Twitter average followers 1697; updated in the last 94 days
      • 85% on Facebook, average friends/fans 2342; updated in the last 87 days fractious
    • FG have most total friends/fans, then Independents followed by Sinn Féin
    • On average, SF have most friends/fans per TD, Labour fewest
    • Most recently active Facebook accounts SP/ PBP accounts, least recent FF
    • FG have most total followers, then Labour, followed by Independents (as a whole)
    • On average, Independent TDs have most Twitter followers, FF fewest
    • Most recently tweeted accounts are Socialist/PBP TDs, least recent FF
  • Since the General Election
    • there is no sign of major momentum or threat to the current government
      • FF have held ground but no evidence of growing support on either network
      • FG have strengthened on Facebook, weakened on Twitter
      • SF have weakened on Facebook, strengthened on Twitter
      • but biggest shift is Labour, losing ground on both Facebook and Twitter
      • Independents show strong growth on Twitter, and some growth on Facebook
        • this suggests there is fertile ground for an urban-based, possibly centre-right party
  • Despite huge activity during the General Election, which has eased off to a more regular level, it still doesn’t seem like any party ‘gets’ Facebook or Twitter…


Feb 092011

I didn’t watch the Leaders’ Semi-Debate, as I actually had more important things to do. So now I’m going to take a closer look at the figures I gathered earlier from all of the social media accounts I have access to.

First up, the state of the parties’ shares.  As before, these are the best numbers that I have been able to gather in a short space of time. They are already out of date, and do not include, among others, candidates who started on ‘The Facebook’ yesterday, nor do they include candidates for election to public office who maintain private profiles…

Of the 235k (+12%) Facebook accounts connected to declared candidates:

Fianna Fáil, 16% (no change); Fine Gael, 26% (-1) ; Labour; 15% (-1); Sinn Féin, 21% (no change); Greens, 4% (no change); ULA, 4% (no change); Independents/Others, 14% (+3)

Of the 124k (+21%) Twitter accounts connected to declared candidates:

Fianna Fáil, 10% (+2); Fine Gael, 26% (-1); Labour; 19% (-1); Sinn Féin, 4% (no change); Greens, 22% (-4); ULA, 5% (-1); Independents/Others, 13% (+4)

Note: there is no margin of error as these are not random samples. It would probably be more correct to describe them as populations in their own right. At any rate, the changes represent changes in share of the total numbers of followers to the accounts. Hence, while Fine Gael have dropped a percentage point in Twitter share, they actually increased their followers by almost 5,000. As I mentioned yesterday, political parties have to work hard to maintain their relevance in social media as the total numbers keeps rising.


Fianna Fáil 

Last week, Fianna Fáil had an 8% share in Twitter, whereas this week it’s a more respectable at 10%, and against a tide in which the other major parties have suffered. However, roughly half of those followers came from a certain Longford Westmeath deputy well known for her interesting quips. More to the point, if every FF candidate had a Twitter account, with the same average number of followers, they’d probably have more like 26% of the share. That, of course, would require candidates to actually engage with the medium…

In terms of Facebook, Fianna Fáil are currently holding their own at last week’s 16% share. As one might expect, another 8 accounts have been added (now 48), and their average number of friends/fans has dropped somewhat. Similarly, we can expect that their share will either hold, or rise, as more candidates begin campaigning in this medium, especially big names who have ignored it up til now.


Fine Gael 

It is striking that Fine Gael have dropped to a 26% share in both the Twitter and Facebook arenas. I suspected last week that they may have been at their peak of social media strength, and this observation supports it. They have added roughly another 4 or 5 thousand followers or friends in both Twitter and Facebook but this hasn’t been enough to maintain their previous level of support. The thing is, all of their candidates who are going to be using social media have already done so. Hence, while it may seem like they are losing support, it’s more a case that they simply can’t maintain the high level of growth that they have done up to now. This will be quite a disappointment to them, as they have been experimenting with social media quite regularly. Those experiments have been greeted with howls of derision, especially on Twitter, but I suspect that this slowdown is more to do with their party leader’s approach to the first television debate: it simply hasn’t been as ‘cool’ to ‘like’ FG this week.



Again, it is very striking that Labour have dropped by exactly the same degree as Fine Gael, though in this case I am somewhat surprised. Their approach to social media has been more sensible than their presumed coalition partners, and their leader has been more prudent in his dealings with the media. The major factor behind this drop is probably the fact that they have run out of candidates to push into social media, and also probably running out of supporters to attract to those candidates. If this drop continues next week, it will certainly add to the argument that, while Labour may be a popular party in opinion polls, they may not have enough candidates of quality on the ground to capitalise on those results. In the case of Labour, and also Fine Gael, it would help their cause if some of their bigger names, who have stay away from Twitter and Facebook thus far (most likely because they have deemed their seats safe enough to do without) made some effort to engage.


Sinn Féin /Greens/ULA

For the smaller parties, it is largely a case of ‘as you were’, in comparison to last week’s numbers. The Greens may be concerned that their share of the Twitter population has dropped from 26% to 22%, but that was largely inevitable, as their dominance there was never going to last as the campaign opened up, as more interesting alternative Tweeting candidates appeared. Sinn Féin have performed remarkably well to hold their 21% share of the Facebook arena, which bodes very well for their prospects, though I do expect this number to fall. Similarly, the ULA, while not really mounting any cohesive strategy in this regard, can be reasonably pleased with holding 5% and 4% on Facebook and Twitter respectively.



If ever evidence were needed that this election will be like no other, or that significant numbers in the electorate are turning away from the major parties, then the jump in support for the non-aligned candidates in the last week would probably do. Independent candidates on Twitter gained approximately 7,500 new followers last week, and on Facebook, about 8,000 friends or fans. While this share may not rise much more, it will continue to eat away at Green support. Call it the Dylan Haskins effect, and while it remains to be see if he, or any of the others will get a seat in the next Dáil, you can be quite certain that Independent transfers will be of some importance come the 26th of February.

Feb 042011

So, I’ve just about managed to catch my breath and take a closer look at the data I collated on Sunday. This will give us a good idea of how the parties stood at the start of the election campaign, and possibly give us an idea of how they will fare.

At the outset, the overall stats:

Of 212k Facebook accounts connected to declared candidates:

Fianna Fáil, 16%; Fine Gael, 27%; Labour; 16%; Sinn Féin, 21%; Greens, 4%; ULA, 4%; Independents/Others, 11%

Of the 102k Twitter accounts connected to declared candidates:

Fianna Fáil, 8%; Fine Gael, 27%; Labour; 20%; Sinn Féin, 4%; Greens, 26%; ULA, 6%; Independents/Others, 9%

I’m not going to go into the ins-and-outs of these numbers, but if you take a look in the newspapers, for all the criticisms that social media polling might get, it’s pretty obvious that those numbers are pretty much in the same neck of the woods as both door-to-door and telephone polling. Anyway, to the parties….

Fianna Fáil 

I don’t think that FF need be very worried about their low (8%) Twitter support, as this is a smaller arena, and is clearly more liberal/left leaning and they can dismiss it with arguments of incumbency and so on. I could only find 25 FF tweeting candidates, who had an average of 345 followers each, with a total of 8618 followers. It’s a pitifully low level of activity, but then it’s a probably a pitifully low level of effort too.

What should be of more concern is the low level of support on Facebook (16%), which is a much bigger arena.  The thing is, that Fianna Fáil is doing reasonably well on Facebook in some respects: 41 accounts, 34k fans/friends, meaning an average of 827 per candidate which is one of the higher rates, compared to the other parties. But it’s still only on a share of 16%, which means that, as much as their HQ might dislike them, those poll ratings in the mid-teens are probably quite accurate, and probably won’t shift much either. No evidence of a ‘shy Tory’ here.

Fine Gael 

In some ways, the support levels for Fine Gael are more interesting than those of any other party. There is clearly a concerted effort by their HQ to use social media, as they have 71 Twitter accounts and 85 Facebook accounts. However, it doesn’t seem to be having much effect: average 394 Twitter followers (not much more than FF), average 675 Facebook friends/fans (considerably less than FF). Overall, they are at 27% of the total share in either medium, which also sounds like they may be at their peak of their total social media support share. It’s also worth bearing in mind that in the 2007 General Election, Fine Gael achieved that same percentage of the popular vote…


Social media has been reasonably kind to Labour, almost by accident. I’ve often grumbled about how several Labour TDs had Twitter accounts, but had never tweeted, and for some that is still the case, even now in the campaign, but that hasn’t stopped them from picking up bucketloads of followers: 44 accounts, with an average of 460 followers, giving a total of 20k followers or a 20% share. Not bad at all, though not a Dáil majority. Of some concern should be their 16% level in the Facebook constituency, where they are, at 604, below FF and FG in terms of average number of friends/fans per account. But they can be confident that their support levels will hold on or above the same level as those of Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin 

For me, the revelation of this research thus far. When I looked at Twittering TDs a few months ago, Sinn Féin weren’t at the races at all, and in fact they still aren’t really, but their Facebook performance is phenomenal. While on Twitter, they are well below expectations, and averages, with only 17 accounts, with an average of 264 followers, giving a total of 4.5k or a share of 4%, on Facebook things are very different: 33 accounts, 45k friends/fans, with an average of 1375 per account, giving them a share of 21%. Bear in mind two points: one, 21% of first preferences could give Sinn Féin 30 seats; and two, when Pearse Doherty walked home in Donegal South-West, he had about 2,200 friends and mounted a concerted campaign on Facebook. They’ve obviously learnt that lesson, and it may yet pay major dividends.


Old hands at social media, the Green Party pretty much owns the Twittersphere. If their share there (26%) translated into vote share, then they could take the next three weeks off as all their candidates would walk home. However, even though their 10 accounts have a phenomenal average of 2624 followers, it’s quite clear that these numbers don’t mean much – as evidence by their failure to channel that support into Facebook. In that sphere, their 15 accounts have an average of 563 friends or fans, which is lower than all the other major parties. Can’t see them doing much above their share there of 4%.

Independents (incorporating ULA and others)

Wholly a mixed bag, by any interpretation. The United Left Alliance is at about 4% share in Facebook, and 6% in Twitter, but that is largely comprised of their ‘headline’ candidates like Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd-Barrett, so while they are in contention for seats, from the social media perspective, it’s hard to see it elsewhere.

In terms of the Independents, there is wide variation: from ‘traditional’ independents, to ex-major party independents, to ‘econo-independents’ and. There are those with absolutely no social media presence, to those posting what they’re having for dinner, with cartoon avatars, and much more besides. The critical point is for the likes of the celebrity economists, is that while they may have amassed a large Twitter following, they may have trouble, like the Greens, in translating that onto Facebook, which to my mind, is a better indicator. In that respect, it will be interesting to see how the very social media savvy campaigns, of which Dylan Haskins is probably the only one, get on at the ballot box.

And that’s the lot for now. Will revise the numbers over the weekend for the first evidence of trends. With the greatest of respect, to the ultimate arbitrator – you, the voter,