Social Media and the Assembly Election

A number of people have referred to this week’s Assembly Election as the “Twitter Election”. This can be looked at in a number of ways: the number of politicians and parties on Twitter/Facebook, the number of journalists now using social media, as well as members of the public discussing politics and election through these online methods.

During the course of last night’s leaders debate 950 tweets were sent using the hashtag #ae11 and 660 sent using #ae11debate (many of those probably included both hashtags). “Peter Robinson”, “leaders debate”, “Tom Elliot”, “Margaret Ritchie”, “SDLP”, “Tom Elliott”, “David Ford” and “Marty” were all mentioned enough to trend in the UK both during and after the televised debate as online debate carried on. And the BBC did a good job of manning it’s @bbcnivote2011 feed.

UTV have also been very notable in getting a vast number of it’s journalists, presenters and various departments signed up to twitter, and releasing verified stories, including a partnership with Slugger O’Toole, bringing a series of “Tweetups”, or Twitter Roadshows, in Derry, East Belfast, Ballymena and Enniskillen – simply a method of getting the views of people in different constituencies, bringing the online chat offline. Also been particularly informative through their @utvelection election feed.

Facebook is another popular choice, to many, more popular due to how easy it is to “game” by adding friends in the hope that they will reciprocate, though my thoughts are very different in terms of using Facebook over Twitter. Especially when politicians do it wrong. I mentioned in a recent post that businesses and public figures, including politicians, should not use a personal profile on Facebook when connecting with people, or publicising their message. At the NI Assembly Tweetup in March, Jim Wells told me he wasn’t concerned that he was breaking Facebook’s own rules by knowingly promoting himself using a personal profile, in his own words: “Well, if they don’t know…” Not the best attitude really.

There are a few reasons, which I will reiterate again, the biggest deciding factor for anyone should be that it’s against Facebook’s rules: “Pages are for organizations, businesses, celebrities, and bands to broadcast great information in an official, public manner to people who choose to connect with them.” That includes politicians. Of course any natural person can create and use Facebook if they so wish, though if they want to promote their politics and policies and it is clear that is the case with many of the current batch of candidates in NI, though some are using private profiles, clearly meant for friends/family only. Though there are others who have no interest in following the rules.

For those worried about losing “friends” changing to a page, Facebook have a profile to page migration tool which carries across all friends and profile picture to a page. This also eliminates the maximum rule of 5,000 friends enforced on a profile.

I often want to “follow” a party/politician to watch their views and agenda, though I don’t always “like” them, and rarely am I their “friend”, so Twitter will generally take precedent for me. The problem with Facebook is that it is largely a “walled garden”, whereas Twitter is much more open. And for those who insist on using a Facebook profile rather than a page; those status updates updates are not viewable to anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account unless it is done via a page.

View the list of all 218 Assembly candidates and their use of Facebook and Twitter, as well as a break-down of each party’s use of social media.

Leave a comment if there are any Facebook or Twitter accounts that have been left out and I will amend the list.

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  • Fair play to you for compiling that list. I tried but in the end I just couldn’t bear sorting through the info sent to me by the parties.

    I have made this point before though; this info should have been easy to access and the parties have shown just how far behind the curve they are on this issue.

  • Mick Fealty

    Claire Savage doing some nice pieces on Facebook…

  • Good guideline this.
    But in essence the Twitterers are but a fraction of the Electorate.
    As always (anti?) Social Media is in awe of itself.

  • Corrections:

    1. Clare Bailey has both a personal profile and a Facebook page.

    2. A lot of action on Twitter is between council candidates, but the party summaries are generated only from assembly candidates. Who will collect the data on council candidates? It shouldn’t take long if different people worked on different councils.

    3. There are also shared Facebook pages, Facebook events, and local party Twitter feeds, that haven’t been included as they don’t refer to specific candidates. E.g.,,,!/SBelfastGreens

  • Also, why no mention of other social media such as YouTube or LinkedIn? A professional politician is likely to have a LinkedIn profile. I wonder how many developers they have in their networks.

  • @fitzjameshorse1745 — Point being, a lot of dialogue takes place online, so the public figures should also be there too. They all read Slugger. We know that online media is getting larger, and so it is in their own interest to put their message online.

    To say that social media is always in awe of itself is a little cheap, social media is just the current media platform for conversation and discussion while print is slowly declining.

    @davenewman — Thanks for the info, I’ve replaced the link to Clare Bailey’s FB page.

    Surely each party should compile lists of each member who has a profile on a particular social network. Not a very difficult thing to do.

  • @davenewman — In short, because it took far too long to do this is at is, and the information for other networks would be much more difficult to find, and more tedious as I doubt there are very many on those networks. The parties themselves, maybe. I haven’t had a chance to add the links to the party’s own pages across the web.

  • Im not convinced that “public” figures read Slugger.
    And “public” figures get one vote ..the same as “private” figures.
    No matter how many people engage in online political discourse, many more wont.
    This begets a two-tier electorate of (allegedly) uninformed masses and (allegedly) informed elitists who con themselves into believing they are “in the know” because a backbench Sinn Féin (or any other Party) MLA retweeted their less than 140 characters on Twitter or because they have a faux connexion thru Facebook to a UTV or BBC journo.
    Thats not real politics.

  • jojo

    Interesting use of social media by an SDLP candidate in Derry, according to the Sentinel. It reports the candidate retracting a facebook comment referring to Kate Middleton as “pure stinkin”. The SDLP said it was in jest and he really thought she was “beautiful” and looked “stunning” in her dress!

  • @fitzjameshorse1745 — I use “public figure” in the Facebook terms sense, which states that anyone who isn’t a “natural person”, such as a celebrity, politician etc, is a public figure.

    Many people are not able to read newspapers, watch tv or partake in many other forms of communication, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all move with the times together.

    Your idea of a “two-tier electorate” is false, or exists in many other areas, but being more accessible to all people should be a primary goal. If Twitter user has a greater ego by being retweeted, then that’s their problem, but it certainly isn’t a new problem.

  • I dont have any problem with anyone taking Facebook, Twitter and Slugger as serious contributions to political discourse.
    As long as I dont have to take one, two or all of them seriously.

  • @fitzjameshorse1745 — Only as seriously as the message portrayed within them.

  • J Kelly

    its good that the old media still gives us a laugh last Friday the Derry Journal had the SDLP fab 4 posing for the legenderry Beatles Photo crossing at Abbey Road, but guess what they were going in the wrong direction…….you couldn’t make it up.

    Back on thread the SDLP in Derry have been flat out on Facebook which is causing internal spats all over the place with people appealing for votes right across the constituency.

  • Don’t forget #AE11 Northern Ireland Assembly Elections – Who would you vote for now ?