UK General Election 2015: The Options

This year’s general election is set to be the UK’s first truly social election, with parties actually dedicating budget to their social media campaigns.
In the run up to the May election, Crimson Hexagon will be analysing social media data to provide insight around how the elections, parties and campaign themes are being perceived by the public.
In this first blog post, we look at how the main parties are faring on Twitter, in terms of who’s following them, and interacting with them online. Everyone thinks they know the types of voters for each of the main parties. Tory voters are all the same, while Labour’s are identical to one another, and as for UKIP and the Greens… Well, how about putting those assumptions to the test?
Who’s Polling Well Online?
We first look at the official Twitter accounts of seven of the main political parties standing at the General Election: the Conservatives (@Conservatives), Green Party (@theGreenParty), Labour (@UKLabour), Liberal Democrats (@LibDems), Plaid Cymru (@Plaid_Cymru), the Scottish National Party (@theSNP), and the UK Independence Party (@UKIP).
Well, the battle for followers is being won by the two traditional main parties, with @UKLabour coming out on top with just short of 175k followers, beating the @Conservatives into second place with around 134k mentions. However, perhaps more revealing is engagement rates.
UK elections, uk topics of conversation
Here, while Labour are still the most engaged (or engaging?) party, the Conservatives are lagging way behind many of the other rivals, with the SNP, Greens, and UKIP all significantly higher engagement rates over 2015 so far. This is mirrored when considering ‘share of voice’, where again Labour, the SNP, Green Party, and UKIP dominate.
Who’s who?
But who are the people following these parties? What can we learn about them that may inform the voter profiles of these political parties.
Our approach was to consider individuals’ online behaviour. From looking at their post, as well as the other people they follow, we can build up a pretty good picture of their genuine interests.
These interests, of course, are naturally over (and under) indexed among any group of people, which allows us to identify the natural affinities of our political party followers. Below we see just a few examples of the ‘types’ of people engaging with the main parties, using interests over-indexed among those people (when compared to UK Twitter activity as a baseline).
uk elections, parties table
So, while there are still common interests (‘energy’ appearing in all seven cases, for example), some interesting factors appear, sometimes confirming stereotypes (UKIP and immigration, for example), revealing policy focus (Lib Dems and Crime, or Labour and Health), or even purely confusing through association (the affinity of the SNP with Smoke Alarms, for example).
The image below, taken from the ForSight platform, shows how these Affinities™ can be compared between different groups: in this case, the members of the current coalitions government.
uk elections affinities
We would have perhaps guessed the strong affinity between the Lib Dems and their own leader, Nick Clegg, but what about the 6x stronger affinity between that party and the Daily Mail newspaper, or the twice-as-strong affinity between the Conservatives and the X Factor?
This is entertaining even at a superficial level, but can have genuine value in terms of informing party strategy. If the online public is, or isn’t, associating your organisation with something, how can you arrest that trend? How can you build on momentum for a positive association? How can a particular interest segment of people be targeted to win over important voters?
And What’s Happening?
Now we’ve established a few insights into who’s engaged with the rival parties, we can take it one step further and isolate specific communities among these follower groups. Using a new feature of Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight platform, called ‘Custom Segments’ we can analyse social media data not based on any pre-defined keyword string or query, but on an organic community of people with shared interests.
By building such Custom Segments using the Twitter followers of each of the political parties, we can get a lens into the general online behaviours, trends, and influences among them. For example, below we see the top retweets from Green Party followers across the past seven days, and most influential people among @UKLabour followers in a 24 hour period.
uk elections segments
This methodology is not just academically interesting, it’s hugely useful in terms of actual tactics. By analysing communities of people, and the trends of content and influence they exhibit, we can focus on what’s really important: the voters and consumers that political parties need to target for votes, and businesses need to attract for business.
Content managers can learn lessons from what videos and images are organically trending among them. Some of which we may be able to turn into vote-winning content strategies:

  • Communications teams can identify key influencers among the political party followers, potentially to amplify their voices to create truly engaged party advocates.
  • Fundraisers can engage with people using certain hashtags or talking about key policies or issues; to generate party funds or recruit brand new party donors.

So What? The Implications.
So the implications for politics at the General Election, and beyond, are clear: we can learn from online engagement and the profiles and interests of online communities. We can use these insights to look at election strategies and methods for keeping core voter groups happy while attracting all important swing voters.
And there are wider implications too, beyond the world of politics. If we can profile the ‘psychographics’ of individuals in this way to look at potential political preferences, what about consumer tastes? Whether a politician or a PR professional, a company director or a market researcher, you need to know your audience. Why would they vote for you if you can’t understand who they are?
For full details on the above insights into the UK political parties, to find out more about Custom Segments, or for other ways Crimson Hexagon can help you make sense of consumer (or voter!) data, contact us.

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