The referendum on Scottish independence is a huge talking point, and nowhere more so than among politicians themselves. But what effect is this political conversation having on the polls? The short answer is ‘not a lot’. While there is far more noise being generated by the yes campaign (with 70% of the posts supporting vote yes), the results from the polls show that around 60% of decided voters are still going to vote no. Could the social media campaign have been more effective? Yatterbox has had a look at the figures.
One key problem for vote yes has been the lack of individual politicians supporting their cause. Although they are creating more noise, there are fewer politicians arguing for vote yes. Of the 151 politicians posting about the referendum, only 47 are in the vote yes camp and one third of all vote yes posts came from just two politicians – Christina McKelvie and Angus Macneil. This means that the Yes campaign is limited in terms of the breadth of its readership on social media. Sending the same message to the same group of followers over and over may have less effect than a more diverse campaign that reaches more people.
It’s perhaps not surprising that the polls match more closely with the numbers of politicians campaigning for each side than they do with the amount of noise being made by the respective camps.
It is also interesting to look at the support bases for each side: vote no have seen posts from members of 8 different political parties (including Labour, Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats), whereas vote yes has only received posts from 2 (the SNP and Plaid Cymru) with 90% of posts coming from the SNP. This exacerbates the problem of a lack of breadth to yes campaign’s readership.
But this isn’t the whole story. We have seen some powerful campaigns pushed by just one politician or a small group of individuals. Stella Creasy, for example, was influential in the #banknotes and #onebillionrising campaigns. So why is it different for the yes campaign?
Compare the following campaign tweets from Angus MacNeil and Christina McKelvie with one from Stella Creasy:
The argument from Angus MacNeil seems only tangentially relevant to the independence debate and Christina McKelvie’s post doesn’t present any idea in the message itself. In contrast, the third post from Stella Creasy has a clear idea (we should celebrate women), a clear and simple objective (get the Prime Minister to agree with this statement) and a clear action (RT if you agree). This seems more effective.
With the yes campaign making up 70% of the social media conversation from MPs, it seems that it is putting concerted effort into using social media as a campaign tool. But achieving an impact on social media requires more than just creating a lot of noise. We are seeing more and more political and brand campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, but in this case, at least, it seems like the Yes campaign is falling short of the mark.