Twitter was a major feature of the 2012 US Presidential elections, with a combined 14 million tweets during the Democratic and Republican Party Conventions and over 10 million tweets during the TV debate between the candidates in October 2012.
No less than three of the Brookings Institute’s Ten Communication Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Election relate to the game-changing impact of Twitter, including the democratization of political debate and commentary. Pollster Stephen Mills commented in the Guardian during the campaign that “tweeters, not bloggers or pundits, will decide debate winners as politics shifts from a 24-hour news cycle to a 140-character one”.
So, will Twitter play a similar role during the 2014 European elections?
At a recent event organized by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at the University of Maastricht, Stephen Clarke from the European Parliament (EP) confirmed that social media outreach was an important element in the “Act.React.Impact” campaign. The campaign is designed to encourage people to turn out and vote in the elections. Looking back, Steve concluded that 2009 could be seen as the Facebook elections (the EP’s Facebook Page, which was launched in the run-up to the 2009 elections, has now gathered over 1.2 million likes) whereas 2014 was shaping up to be the Twitter election.
Although they are far from the figures seen during the 2012 US Presidential elections, the statistics from these early stages of the European campaign certainly seem to confirm that Twitter is regarded as a key communication tool by candidates, commentators and activists. Consultancy Burson-Marsteller, which is monitoring the digital side of the elections, estimates that candidates are already posting over 2000 tweets a day on a wide range of issues.
It has been fascinating following the Twitter stream with the #EP2014 hashtag, particularly the discussions around the political parties’ nominations for Commission President (one of the main innovations in this year’s European elections). The nominees announced so far are all active tweeters. Since the beginning of 2014, the volume of tweets mentioning #EP2014 has been increasing steadily, with peaks during the last week of over 2000 tweets per day.
I have been using Topsy to keep an eye on the overall number of tweets, and also experimenting with Bluenod to create social network maps that highlight the most connected and influential participants in the conversation about #EP2014. I would be interested to hear if anyone else is using analytics tools to try to get a picture of the extent and the nature of the online debate about the 2014 European elections.