Ken v Boris: Tracking Social Media Mentions of London’s Political Rivals

May 3, 2012

Events, Odds & Ends

As former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said: “A week is a long time in politics”. Experienced politicians Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, the two main contenders in today’s London Mayoral elections, are well-aware of this maxim and you can be sure that their campaign teams are continuing to check public reactions to the candidates, even as votes are being cast. Whereas in the past Labour leader Wilson wooed the voters in the 1960s and 1970s through newspaper interviews and TV and radio broadcasts, today’s politicians must also get their message across through social media, particularly if they want to engage younger voters.

The easiest way to monitor the impact of an online media campaign is through a social media monitoring tool, which identifies where the social audience is, what they are talking about and what they want from the politicians who elect them. Social media mentions of  ‘Boris Johnson’ and ‘Ken Livingstone’ for the week Friday April 20th to Friday April 27th 2012 were tracked using Brandwatch’s social media monitoring software.

Ken Livingstone’s word cloud (above) show which phrases were most commonly-used by the internet audiences (social networkers, bloggers, forum posters, news channels etc.). The bigger the phrase or word, the more often it has been used. Livingstone will be pleased that there is no mention of ‘Red Ken’ these days, however he might be a little worried that the names ‘Alan Sugar’ and ‘George Galloway’ appear. New Labour supporter Lord Sugar has urged voters not to vote for Livingstone, while Galloway has backed the Labour candidate but predicted that he won’t win.

Interestingly, Twitter is the site which is the producing the most noise about Livingstone. This is perhaps a sign that the high news coverage of Ken Livingstone is matched by public interest.

Brandwatch’s sentiment pie chart shows that there is more negative than positive sentiment surrounding London’s first Mayor. However, measuring the sentiment of thousands of mentions is a haphazard business and is very hard to gauge without some degree of human intervention!

Brandwatch shows that Boris Johnson generated almost twice as many social media mentions during the week than Livingstone did (12,000 compared to 6,880). However, his negativity rating was higher (42 per cent, compared to 37 per cent). Whereas social media mentions of Livingstone peaked on April 20th, April 24th saw a spike in the buzz surrounding Boris. A quick search of Google News on the day doesn’t clarify why exactly this is. Johnson’s campaign team is sure to have seen this spike and identified the reason for it – it’s their job to and social media monitoring can help them achieve their analytical and, perhaps, electoral goals.

I’ll leave you with Boris Johnson’s word cloud, and let you decide why the issue of tattoos seems to loom larger than the issue of ‘public transport fares’ and ‘housing benefit’ in Johnson’s election campaign!


About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time... Google+

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