The European Referendum will take place on June 23, 2016 and after months of campaigning there’s only one week until the big vote. The next few days will be crucial and social media will act as a major battleground to win over voters.
BirdSong Analytics has delved deeper into the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the official ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ (dubbed as ‘Brexit’) referendum pages to uncover how the two campaigns are using these important channels and how they could improve their engagement over the last few days of the campaign.
You can read our original research here: ‘How will Facebook influence Brexit voters?’
In the run up to the referendum the two campaigns are neck and neck. Stronger In has 478,446 Facebook fans, with Vote Leave narrowly ahead on 495,321. This was not the case a few weeks ago. As of April 20, 2016, Stronger In was ahead with 354,927 and had over 27,000 more fans than Vote Leave. What has caused the tables to turn? Those ‘talking about’ the campaigns may have some impact. The number of actions on the Brexit page is almost 490,000, whereas Remain have less than 300,000 actions on their page.
With a week to go, and as we originally predicted, both pages have increased their posting frequency. In the last two months, Brexit have upped their number of daily posts from 2.3 per day to 2.37 (an increase of 24%). In comparison, Stronger In have increased activity from 1.85 to 1.96 posts per day, (an increase of 28%).
BirdSong’s Facebook Insights has also identified the malestream nature of politics on Facebook. We can see a far greater number of male fans engaging with the posts from both accounts, revealing a difference of around 16,000 between the sexes. Will this mean more men will be voting than women come June 23?
But what about engagement? This key metric can identify the success of a Facebook page and the higher the engagement the better. Two months ago, Vote Leave had an engagement rate of 54%, which was a whopping three times that of Stronger In’s. The Brexit page now has a very impressive engagement rate of 98.77%, an incredible growth, and in terms of correlation, Remain’s engagement is up to just over 60%. As the referendum approaches, Brexit followers appear to be more active in their support than their rivals.
Both pages have posted the most on a Tuesday, with the majority of all updates coming between Monday and Wednesday. Stronger In’s most popular posting time is 5pm, whereas Vote Leave have chosen 11am as their most frequent posting hour. But how does this impact engagement? BirdSong Analytics has identified that the Brexit campaign should really be posting at 5pm as that is when they the best levels of engagement, rather than the 11am they favour. Posting at 5pm could see their engagement increase.
Vote Leave saw their most commented on post on the day the referendum was announced, receiving nearly 7,000 comments.
June 14, 2016, saw Brexit drive their highest amount of shares to date. A video on how the EU spends money was shared on Facebook over 100,000 times, far more than any Stronger In post.
Interestingly, the most liked Remain post features Johnny Vegas and most shared includes John Major, suggesting the face of the post can influence potential engagement. Any updates from Vote Leave referencing Boris Johnson attracting likes above 10,000 and as of this week his inclusion saw this type of engagement breach the 20,000 barrier.
Importantly, it is video content that is proving to have the most significant uplift on engagement, in particular shares. Shares are often considered the most valuable form of engagement (as opposed to likes and comments) and both campaign accounts have seen increased levels of sharing from their posts with video updates. These posts make up more than 23% of all updates for Stronger In and nearly 29% for Vote Leave, suggesting that they are aware of that this content is more emotive to their fans.
Influence may not just come from the type of post. The words and phrases within their updates are ultimately going to have a large impact. Vote Leave most used terms are on leaving, the NHS, borders, immigration, and money. Stronger In, focus on the economy and the future, but intriguingly “leave” is their fifth most used word.
Are they focusing too much on negatives of Britain leaving the EU, rather than explaining the benefits of remaining?
We have used our Twitter Analytics to uncover some key metrics about the official Twitter accounts too.
In the last month, both accounts have acquired more followers. Brexit now has over 60,000 followers whereas Remain has just under 40,000. Since May 16, 2016, the Vote Leave account has gained over 18,000, almost a third of its entire audience, suggesting that as the referendum draws closer, people are paying more attention to the Brexit campaign?
Both Twitter accounts have notable backers. Stronger In’s followers include Prime Minister David Cameron, Lord Alan Sugar, author J.K Rowling and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Vote Leave’s focal followers feature the likes of Zac Goldsmith, Lord Ashcroft, Elizabeth Hurley and Kirstie Allsopp. A big talking point is that Vote Leave follows Stronger In, but the Remain campaign does not follow them back!
Of all the followers analysed, 8.4% follow both campaign accounts, indicating that Twitter users know who they are supporting for the upcoming referendum.
Much like the Facebook pages, the gender gap is very much present, with men much more engaged. Both accounts need to post more content to try and engage women.
Question Time on June 9, 2016, had a noticeable impact. Friday June 10, saw a spike in followers for the Twitter accounts of both Vote Leave and Stronger In. Could the Question Time programme have had an eye-opening effect on the people of Britain and seen them invest more time in deciding upon who to vote for?
After an extensive analysis of the EU campaign accounts, we are able to suggest some recommendations for improving engagement and social sharing.
Both campaigns need to focus their activity across the whole week rather than bulk posting from Monday – Wednesday. This Saturday offers an opportunity to engage and influence more users.
Identifying the best times and days to post on both Twitter and Facebook could increase engagement and see the views of Leave and Remain reach more members of the public through sharing. For example, the Vote Leave page post most on Facebook at 11am, but to receive more engagement they should really be posting more at 5pm.
With more male fans engaging on both Twitter and Facebook, there is a real need to focus content with more appeal to women.
BirdSong and Social Media Politics
We provide an expansive range of political social media insights. Social media, now more than ever is a fundamental way for politicians to engage with the media and the rest of the world.
As influential figures, the power of social media has the ability to see an election won or lost as the likes of Facebook and Twitter can heavily influence fans and followers. For example, in April 2015 when Hillary Clinton announced her Presidential campaign, her Twitter followers spiked!