Vote with your Tweet

With the Scottish referendum less than a week away, and the polling gap between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps at an all-time low, we thought it would be interesting to take a cursory glance at the tussle (twussle?) that took place on Twitter around the second televised debate between Alastair Darling and Alex Salmond. Let’s start with a few stats:

  • On August 24th, the day before the second debate, #YesBecause was tagged 23000 times

  • On the same day, #NoBecause was tagged 581 times.

  • There were over 250,000 tweets posted during the debate

  • Thirteen thousand tweets ‘booed’ Alex Salmond, and 8,300 ‘cheered’ him [1]

  • This compared to 30,000 ‘boos’ for Alastair Darling, and only 435 ‘cheers’

This shows us:

  • The quantity of data available from Twitter allows for potentially interesting and useful analyses of opinions and trends

  • The Yes camp are dominating this particular social network

This does not show us:

  • The Yes vote will win

  • Simple statistical analysis of complex linguistic data is awesome and we should all trust any conclusions drawn from a superficial mathematical overview of a small subset of the totality of what is actually happening in the real world without attempting to use our brains to understand it

So how did the Yes Camp woo Twitter?

Let’s focus on one of the Yes camps most successful twitter strategies: ‘#YesBecause’. The tag was created by ‘National Collective’, who are a group of artists and creatives who support Scottish Independence. As you can see from the stats above, it has become immensely popular. ‘#YesBecause’ reminded us of a key component of Procter & Gamble’s advertising strategy: ‘Reasons To Believe’.

P & G knows that if you show the consumer a ‘fact’ you don’t have to tell them to buy your product: in fact, without a rational reason to believe what you’re telling them, your claims are dismissed (“they would say that, wouldn’t they?”).

Crucially, P&G’s RTBs don’t require a PHD: the simpler they are, the more persuasive they are. In fact, as the video above shows, sometimes you don’t even have to know what people are saying to understand what is being said. In the same way, a considered discussion of complex political topics in 140 characters will always be difficult, but individuals’ direct statements of the issues that matter to them can be very persuasive.

In effect, the Yes camp were crowdsourcing a very powerful ‘marketing’ strategy, by turning every tweet into a Reason To Vote Yes.

And why did #NoBecause not work?

So why did #NoBecause fail where #YesBecause triumphed? Partly by virtue of the fact that it followed rather than led, so that by the time the tag had crystallised, the momentum of the earlier tag had already snowballed. But also because it was swiftly hijacked by ‘yes’ supporters who had a lot of fun ridiculing it. This, incidentally, teaches us another twuth: social media loves subversion.

We remain apolitical. But committed to the unification of logic and emotion in writing.

If you’d like to hear more about how we use text analytics to discover meaningful themes in consumers’ language, please email Chris: we like to talk.

[1]Source: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-08/27/twitter-debate