If the popularity of Facebook fansites was an indicator of how Londoners will vote on May 1st then Boris would be a clear winner with 7466 supporters whilst Ken and Brian trail behind with 2152 and 2130 respectively. Thankfully it seems that Londoners will vote with their feet rather than faces but latest results from a social media study reveal that online PR strategies could count for something in the electoral race.
Nielsen Online revealed today that London Mayoral candidates Ken and Boris are top of the blogs, dominating 80% of the social media conversation. Liberal Democratic candidate Brian Paddick is third with 9% of comments, followed by the Green Party's Sian Berry with just under 4% and the BNP's Richard Barnbrook with 2%.
According to Alex Burmaster, Internet Analyst from Nielsen Online, Londoners penchant for social networking continues to thrive and users are taking their opinions mainly to non-political forums, blogs & message boards including those of national newspapers and sites like Twitter and Facebook.
“Ken and Boris are the two leading candidates, neck and neck in the polls and the levels of conversation in the social media space utterly reflect this. If conversation levels were a guide, Ken would narrowly pip Boris to win. However, it's when we look at the sentiment of these conversations that a far more interesting and revealing picture emerges.”
Controversy, positivity, negativity: sentiment towards the five leading candidates in social media
• Controversy: Boris is the ‘marmite' candidate – being the most likely of the top five to generate some form of opinion either way. Only 30% of posts relating to him were of ‘no opinion'
The Green Party's Sian Berry generates the least controversy / most apathy – having the highest percentage (54%) of ‘no opinion' posts
• Positivity: Whilst Boris is most likely to generate positive sentiment, 29% of posts being ‘positive' – Sian Berry had the highest overall ‘net' positive score of 15% (positive sentiment % minus negative sentiment %). Brian Paddick is the only other candidate to come out with a ‘net' positive score (11%)
• Negativity: Richard Barnbrook is most likely to generate negative sentiment, 38% of posts being ‘negative'. He also had the lowest overall ‘net' positive score of -19%
Indeed Nielsen's results seem to suggest that, shock horror, actually participating in blogs, forums and social media is effective in helping other people to form opinions on issues that affect them. The most active candidates online garnered a net positive score in total comments posted on social media sites. Brian Paddick employed a web ace, signed up to twitter, where he hosted a policy debate and also broadcasted himself via uStream.tv.
“Of the three leading candidates in the polls it's not surprising that Brian Paddick is the only one to have an overall positive sentiment score in social media. His campaign, involving a US web strategist firm, has focused the most heavily on social media including a pioneering British political use of sites like Twitter, Facebook and UStream.TV – and it certainly seems to have paid dividends.
However, judging from the sheer levels of social media conversation on the election, it may not be enough to grab victory over Boris or Ken. If social media were a crystal ball it might tell us Boris is likely to get more votes than Ken. However, positive comments on Boris more often centre on personality rather than policies and only time will tell if this is a strong enough factor for voters when faced with putting the cross in his box to change the status quo.”
So, positivity is not the cure for apathy and clearly Londoners like myself, vis-a-vis this post, whether online or on the underground, don't know what we really really want but we sure do love a good rant!