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sunday times

Social media eclipse billboard adverts in sign of the times

April 26th, 2015

 

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The SNP have spent a lot of money launching their latest billboard campaign with their “Scotland stronger at Westminster” headline alongside a cross-armed picture of Nicola Sturgeon. They are difficult to miss, but are they a good use of money?

An ‘Election Engagement Index’ was this week published by Weber Shandwick with research finding that traditional media are more likely to capture the attention of voters than billboard advertising, or than newer social media such as Facebook.

Only 25% of respondents said that outdoor advertising such as billboards would grab their attention, signalling to politicians that they are less effective at gaining the attention of voters than taking part in media interviews. Only 22% of survey respondents thought social media would grab their attention.

However, when the research looked at what would actually influence how people vote, then social media commands greater influence than any ‘traditional media’ channels, excepting TV.

Among people who had received information about the election through social media channels, 38% thought that it would influence their vote, suggesting that, once candidates connect with voters through channels such as Facebook, the potential for changing opinions and winning votes is high.

Social media pipped traditional campaigning approaches such as doorstep canvassing, and vastly outstripped the influence of billboard advertising. The parties aren’t blind to the power of using social media to highlight their campaign points. This week social media played a major part in the campaign in Scotland – for good and bad.

The SNP have by far the most active community online but as we know social media leaves a problem for previously centralised communications . This week saw the SNP candidate in Edinburgh South, Neil Hay, having to apologise for tweeting some pretty ghastly things from a pseudonym account. Stupid behaviour and the kind of thing that could well see the SNP failing to gain that seat.

In an amusing moment Ruth Davidson received a lot of coverage having her picture taken feeding an ice-lolly to a journalist, mimicking a strange photo of Alex Salmond from some years ago. This adds nothing to our knowledge of policy, but it might gain further awareness of the Tories key campaign asset and therefore the chance to engage with more voters.

Social media is a key way for Scottish leaders to communicate with voters, but they need to learn how to move from broadcasting online to engaging in a meaningful way.

This article was originally printed in the Sunday Times Scotland on 26 April 2015.


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Brown and Sturgeon to cross sabres in political star wars

April 19th, 2015

 

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The great clunking fist that helped save the Union is back – this time on a mission to save the Scottish Labour Party.

As The Sunday Times reports, Gordon Brown is planning a series of engagements in Scotland this week to try to help his party get back its mojo after yet more polls signalled it’s about to be unceremoniously dumped by Scottish voters.

Among some senior party anoraks at least news of his reappearance has caused the same sort of whoop of delight that greeted the return of Han Solo and Chewbacca in the latest Star Wars teaser trailer.

After all, the former PM helped restore the fortunes of the Better Together campaign by reaching the parts of Scotland other unionist politicians could not reach. Might the great Gordo pull off another amazing feat with his Jedi-like skills?

While polling approval ratings show that Jim Murphy is no Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband isn’t even as popular as David Cameron in Scotland, Brown – for reasons that are unfathomable to many – remains a popular and trusted figure among many traditional Labour voters.

Yet not even in his Kirkcaldy heartland, where Brown is something of a local hero, could he have engendered the sort of buzz evident around Sturgeon’s audacious campaign trip there last week, which was compared to a royal visit.

Of particular concern for Labour is not just the slew of snapshot polls pointing to the loss of about 30 seats to the SNP but evidence suggesting any attempt to win back traditional Labour voters who have switched to the nationalists is doomed to fail.

While Jim Murphy has predicted that voters in Scotland will “switch late and switch big” to help hand Miliband the keys to No 10, data produced by the British Election Study – one of the most authoritative sources of election research – shows that almost all voters who have switched from Labour to the nationalists since the last general election are “certain” they will vote SNP.

Yet, just as in Star Wars, there has emerged “a new hope”, and an unlikely one at that, which may yet thwart Sturgeon’s hopes at least in some seats currently held by Labour.

Labour candidates are reporting people identified from previous elections as Tory voters telling canvassers in large numbers that they intend to lend their vote to Labour this time to check the power of the SNP and reduce the chances of another independence referendum.

This echoes the findings of research for Lord Ashcroft indicating that Conservatives are less likely to rule out voting Labour than rule out voting for the SNP in order to help save the Union, a factor that could help Labour particularly in its more affluent seats.

The prospect of another alliance with Tories might make Brown feel like falling on his own light sabre but even Luke Skywalker needed help.

Jason Allardyce is Scottish editor of The Sunday Times

@sundaytimessco


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Best of the weekend

February 16th, 2015

 

Selection of papers

Welcome to our weekly weekend recap. Our team here at ScotlandVotes share their best stories from the weekend. It’s not just all Scottish politics. But please dip in and have a read…

Ben Riley-Smith was one of the referendum’s star performers and he continues to deliver with his piece in The Sunday Telegraph. With the prospect of impending disaster for Scottish Labour in May, Riley-Smith takes the temperature of sitting Labour MPs. It is not a comfortable read, “A third, when asked how things were looking in Scotland, simply formed his hand into a gun, raised it to his mouth and pulled the trigger.” DM

 

Bill Jamieson’s article in The Scotsman is a good scene-setter for the GE. CM

 

In the Scotland on Sunday, Euan McColm asserts that Nicola Sturgeon has made a strategic error in revealing the SNP’s red line issues in any post General Election coalition negotiations. NB&CM

 

Nick Cohen’s furious column in The Spectator argues that David Cameron is facing a crisis ahead of the General Election as voters will see the Conservatives as increasingly out of touch and acting in self-interest. DM

 

In the Sunday Times, Alex Massie discusses the current controversy over consensual stop and search arguing that “the arrogance of an over-mighty police force has been on full display and it has not been an ennobling sight.” NB

 

Likewise, Iain Macwhirter in the Sunday Herald suggests that Police Scotland “is either too big, out of control or both.” DM


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Best of the weekend

February 9th, 2015

 

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Welcome to our weekly weekend recap. Our team here at ScotlandVotes share their best stories from the weekend. It’s not just all Scottish politics. But please dip in and have a read…

 

Fascinating interview with Ed Miliband in the Financial Times. The authors claim that Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell sounded out Alan Johnson on whether he was interested in taking over. CM

 

The news in the Sunday Herald that Jim Murphy is seeking to campaign using term Labour for Yes, shows how much importance Labour’s campaign team are putting in public perception at the top level without looking at the detail – however many nationalists are getting worried about the tactic – despite Alex Salmond using a similar tactic for Holyrood when SNP regional list was entered under “Alex Salmond for First Minister”. KM

 

Euan McColm looks at last week’s stop and search controversy in Scotland on Sunday and concludes that Nicola Sturgeon will not avoid challenging long-term government positions, where it makes sense, contrasting this with Alex Salmond’s record of defending the indefensible against opposition attacks. NB

 

The first issues index of 2015 was published by pollsters Ipsos-MORI last week. Snapshot of some interesting findings here. CM

 

Enjoyed a fun story in The Scotsman on Jack McConnell being ousted from his seat by a fellow Lord on the way down to London on an East Coast train. KM

 

Inevitably, enhanced powers for Scotland would lead to a clamour for more powers for other parts of the UK. The Core Cities (made up of leaders of the 10 biggest economies outside London) have “called for Scottish-style tax powers to encourage growth” reports the Financial Times. DM

 

A scathing attack from entrepreneur Luke Johnson appeared in this weekend’s Sunday Times. It is quite shrill in places and he calls big business “too craven to say in public what they think about Labour’s attitude to business”.  CM

 

Friday saw the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee published their recommendations on how to regulate lobbying in Scotland. Kenny Stewart, Government Relations Manager at Glasgow 2014 had his say on Medium arguing that in lobbying it ‘takes two to tango’. DM


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Who’s winning the social media battle for SNP Depute Leadership?

October 29th, 2014

 

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Kenny Murray delves into social media analytics to see who is winning the battle online.

It was a competition many never expected and in recent days, it has been overshadowed by the continuing frenzy on who will lead Labour in Scotland. However we thought it’d be prudent to have a look at the competition for Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement as she ascends to the top job in Scottish parliamentary politics.

Now, Facebook doesn’t give much scope for analysis so let’s take a look at the topline stats of page likes:

  1. Stewart Hosie – 1,584
  2. Angela 4 Deputy – 1,581 likes
  3. Keith Brown – 581 likes

 

Stewart Hosie narrowly beats Angela 4 Deputy to the post, however – he uses his own MP page, Ms Constance has set up a brand new page dedicated to her leadership campaign – so we believe she wins this round, followed by Stewart Hosie in second place and Keith Brown in dead last with a paltry 581 likes.

Let’s more specifically focus on Twitter – after all it was the main vehicle for debate among the talking shop during the independence referendum, although many did wrongly predict a resounding Yes win due to the social media statistics – we could be on the wrong track altogether, alternatively we may be 100% right.

So, where do they sit on follower count?

@StewartHosieMP has a decent 7,791 followers at our last check

@AConstanceMSP has a very good 7,145 followers some of whom may be backing her

@KeithBrownMSP has a smaller 6,886 followers reading his thoughts

So again, Stewart Hosie seems to be winning, with Angela in second place, ever so closely and early favourite Keith Brown is in dead last.

Using Topsy (see below), we can see that if the vote was to be decided purely on who gained most mentions via Twitter, then Keith Brown would win hands down – followed by Stewart Hosie and in last place with less than a fourth of the tweets that mention Keith Brown, Angela Constance.

topsy

To be fair, that’s not the only method – these tweets could be attacking them or simply mentioning them. Let’s take a look at the sentiment score. This scores the tweets based on their tone and what sentiment they imply, the higher the score – the more supportive they are.

 

Keith Brown

Topsy, gives Mr Brown a sentiment score of 63 – which is quite good going for a politician. If this was an approval rating, it could be looked on very favourably. Although this comes from a sample of just over 4,000 tweets it’s probably accurate to a good degree of what the Transport Minister has experienced online. keith sentiment

It’s not just sentiment score though, how many twitter users have declared their vote for Keith Brown? 198.

 

Angela Constance

Ms Constance does pretty well considering the smaller sample size – a sentiment score of 55 is not to be sniffed at – however is it several points lower than Keith Brown who for once, seems to be winning in one vein of this competition online. ang senti

How many people have made their vote public for Angela Constance though? An impressive 151 declared voters online.

Stewart Hosie

Stewart Hosie wins yet again, with the highest sentiment score, admittedly from a lower sample than Keith Brown, Stewart gains a sentiment score of 65, only marginally more favourable than Keith Brown.

stew senti

How many publicly declared votes does he have though? 37.

So who will win?

Ultimately that’s up to the SNP membership but combining a number of factors, social media predicts it for Keith Brown. Going from the positive sentiment score, the larger support base online and success across all channels – if social media is to be trusted Keith Brown will be the Depute Leader of the SNP come 10am on Friday 14 November.


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They did it their way: The last hour of #indyref with YesScotland Digital Team

September 25th, 2014

 

“It feels like a cup final,” said Stewart Kirkpatrick, Yes Scotland’s Head of Digital but there was no crowing behind the fact: if anything, the Hibernian supporter knew exactly what that could mean.

But at 9pm last Thursday, when Scotland Votes was invited to spend the last hour of the #indyref campaign with Yes Scotland at their Glasgow HQ, it was still all to play for, to continue the football metaphor.

Yes Scotland Digital Team working to the wire

Yes Scotland Digital Team working to the wire

In fact, there were more than one game going on. Just as there was still information being shared online urging people to vote Yes and fighting other rumours (“none of the polling stations have closed early so let’s not be sharing that,” critiqued Gail Lythgoe), there was a battle going on against David Cameron to be the largest UK political page on Facebook.

We’re 200 Likes away from overtaking him on Facebook,” pointed out Kevin Gilmartin “and some people may think that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but it’s a statement, it shows that in two years people can become a large movement and come together in hope. It’s a very symbolic statement.”

But there were even smaller personal gains people had hoped for. “I set myself a goal of 5,000 followers on Twitter through the campaign and then I set for 6,000 so I could reach more people about Yes,” said Lythgoe inbetween answering calls from people with late voting queries.

Just yards away, there may have been hundreds partying in George Square but for Kirkpatrick and his team of Gilmartin, Lythgoe, Peter Dempsie and Stewart Bremner, there was no party, just the soft glow from iMacs onto their concentrating brows, looking at the data, finding what combination of hard data and emotion could lead to undecideds and No’s turning to Yes voters.

“Retweeting and posting elsewhere material that shows No voters turning to Yes is getting shared an incredible amount at this point and that’s good because it will help those Yes voters who may still be on the fence have confidence that they are making the right decision.”

But what he didn’t want posted was pleas for Yes to overtake David Cameron, especially as the difference narrowed to 100. “If we post something, the Tories will see it and potentially rally round.”

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The Empty Office

There was no let up in the online activity and monitoring in the empty office. “And it should be empty because the teams and hard working volunteers should still be out helping people and informing them if questions are asked,” pointed out Dempsie. “The best parts of Yes were not about sitting on backsides. It was about engaging with all the communities – from online to on the doorsteps.”

“Make no mistake,” added Kirkpatrick, scouring through data from Google Analytics, Hootsuite and other sources, “this campaign has shown the roles that digital can play as part of an integrated campaigning effort. It’s not about saying digital wins it, it’s about making sure people can access the information they want to find, about responding to not only their queries but their search patterns and having a community to help you.”

And that sense of community continued even when a group from Venezula turned up at the last minute as did a journalist and other commentators. They were not turned away, they were welcomed in – and encouraged to like the Facebook page as David Cameron’s lead slipped to 68.

The Venezulans left after pointing out Alba means Dawn and there was the dawn of a new political leader on Facebook as the Yes page overtook the Prime Minister but there was no loud cheers and aggressive fist pumping, just some quiet calls of “Yes” as there was still 12 minutes until people could turn up and vote. One observer did miss the Cameron overtaking though as he had locked himself out escorting the Venezualans out.

As the moments ticked down, there was a sense of accomplishment amongst the team. “There’s been moments where it was rocky,” said Kirkpatrick, “but from the start of the year there was a real sense of it coming together, of the right people being in the right places and that yes, this could be done.

“And that’s what people need to take away from this – the confidence, the optimism. Even if the vote is No, there’s a lot the campaign has done – digitally and otherwise.”

The clock – or rather the computer screens and TVs – turned 10pm but Kirkpatrick enthused the team to carry on, knowing there were still people in queues. “We don’t stop now,” but 15 minutes later they did to the strains of Sinatra and My Way filling the room, a converted bank vault.

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Gail Lythgoe (front) as the rest of the digital team discuss tactics in the closing minutes of the campaign.

There were hugs, there was praise, pictures taken and “well done’s” as thousands of hours of work came to an end – but there was last one thing to be done. “Capture the data. Go back to the start and get all of it.” Data that will be pored over for days and weeks to come as people see exactly what worked in digital engagement and what could be improved in other campaigns. “Catalonia could be interesting next year if anyone wants to go…” teased the journalist to nods by some of those present.

“Never mind Catalonia next year, I’m still waiting for Henry McLeish to come out for Yes,” cracked one of the team as they put their machine through Shut Down for the last time. The digital campaign that started with a start-up chime and the rattle of keyboards came to an end in a similar way, the team all still too wrapped up in what would happen in the next few hours to think ahead to the realisation that within hours they would all be unemployed in a Scotland changed by the last years, regardless of result.

“That’s me,” said Kevin Gilmartin. “We’ve done what we can, it’s been far more than we hoped for, we’ve touched more people than we could ever have expected to. It’s been an amazing journey, personally as much as anything. I’ve learned so much about what I’m capable of, I’ve grown, we’ve all grown. But what comes next?”

There was no bang, no loud screams, no tears. It was a professional close to a professional effort, one that others had dismissed and then raced to play catch-up in and the team kept their own counsel as Gilmartin put the lights out but Gail Lythgoe wryly noting she’d be back – to the recruitment agency that was next door to the Yes organisation.

From there the team did their own thing – some went straight to the count in Ingliston, others retreated to the Pot Still pub and their dram of the month – Isle of Jura’s Origin ironically enough.

They had engaged with their fellow Scots digitally and it was time to take their places, anonymously, in the crowds around Scotland, mingling with people who may not know them, may never know them, but certainly knew of their work and been informed – one way or another by it. There were no egos, there was just the community. There was Scotland.

 

By Craig McGill


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