As many of you will know I have been doing a weekly Twitter Stats post. The metrics measured include tweets per MP, average Tweets per MP and how many MPs in a party send zero tweets in any given week. I thought now might be an opportune time to look at some of the trends in those statistics. So I spent last night working in Excel to produces some graphs.
The graphs have reinforced what I already knew, and have been talking about, but even I was shocked at how big some of the differences were.
A couple of caveats first. Both National and Labour have had a few MPs leave Twitter lately. I have excluded them from all the stats, because the ones who did leave were all either inactive, or almost totally inactive. I did take into account Kelvin Davis coming back, only changing the number of MPs when he had been back in Parliament for 2 full weeks of data collection. All data collected around 7pm on Fridays.
Average Tweets by MPs
For anyone on Twitter, it is pretty obvious that the Green MPs are the most active, but the size of the difference is rather spectacular. Bar the week ending 2 May, the Greens have the highest average number of Tweets per MPs. In raw numbers, the Greens are regularly getting an average of over 30 Tweets per MP. This is a number that Labour have achieved once and National have barely reached 2/3 of. The week where National did achieve that peak, of just over 20, was around the time of the story about Donghua Liu’s donations to Labour. What makes National’s figures even more surprising is that even with Tau Henare on their side, who is generally sending somewhere over 120 tweets, with up to 300 lately during the FIFA World Cup, they are still only managing to reach the mid teens per MP.
Now it is important to remember that the Greens only have 14 MPs, all of whom are on Twitter, so it is easier for them to get high averages, as one or two outliers will lift the overall average. However, as you can see, there isn’t just one or two weeks where the Greens are solidly ahead. The three weeks where the Greens were significantly down were all weeks in which the House wasn’t sitting, so that is to be expected.
Even though the average number of Tweets per MP tells use how active, over all, each parties MPs are. When it comes to how this weight is being carried, the more telling statistic is how many MPs within each party send zero tweets in a week.
It is not surprising to see a graph that is the reverse, order wise, of the earlier one. No matter how committed your MPs are, there will always be weeks where some are not active. They may be on holiday, or they may be on Parliamentary business related trips overseas, or may be visiting parts of the country with less than ideal cellphone/internet coverage. But the Greens do a good job of keeping it to one or two MPs each week. Even if those MPs are only sending half a dozen or a dozen tweets a week, that is going to help lift the average of all their MPs.
Even during the peak week for National’s average, they still have 14 MPs not sending a single tweet. This is more proof that within National it is a small group of MPs carrying most of the responsibility of getting National’s message out on Twitter.
It is important, at this stage, to also look at how many MPs, as a percentage of those on Twitter, send zero tweets.
National still sit above the rest in most weeks, however there is also cause for concern in Labour when it comes to how many of their MPs are not engaging. The question has to be asked, is there any point in MPs being on social media if they aren’t actually going to use it?
Now is a good time to give some context to this data. At both the National and Labour conferences recently they parties have released campaign hashtags, #TeamKey and #ForABetterNZ. National’s hashtag made the news because it got hijacked. Where as Labour’s managed to trend on Twitter on both the Sunday and again on the Monday. Now trending isn’t the only measure of success, but it is a key one, one that many look to. But it isn’t something that just happens.
The exact parameters needed to get something trending are not known. It is a combination of what else is happening on Twitter at the time, as well as how many people are tweeting about something, how much each of those people are tweeting, where they are tweeting from (for geographical trendings), plus some other potential elements. But what is clear is that an active base of people is needed, but it needs to be wide spread.
For example, if you have 1000 tweets sent by 500 accounts in 2 hours about something, that is more likely to trending than having 1000 tweets sent about something, in 2 hours, but by only 250 accounts.
Therefore, when National had their conference, in that week there was 36 National MPs tweeting vs 25 Labour MPs tweeting at their conference. Compared to notional figures of 47 vs 31 MPs. So Labour had a higher percentage of their MPs tweeting. But it isn’t just the MPs that matter.
Just like any forum, parties need to build support. MPs wouldn’t expect to turn up to a new forum and just automatically have support from people there. Yet this seems to be the overall approach of National, and their MPs, to social media. National rolled out the the #TeamKey hashtag without having put in the ground work, over the last 2+ years, to establish the support base on Twitter.
Every MP establishes their own little network of followers. Just as each MP has their own policy areas of interest, so the people they follow will vary.There will be a group who follow a large number of MPs from the same party, just as MPs have common values and approaches to issues. But it is the discrete networks of followers that each MP builds up that matter. But to establish these groups, MPs have to be active in the first place. National have a trend of a large percentage of their MPs not tweeting and thus not establishing communities of supporters who they can call on to lend support for things like hashtags.
Is it any wonder that #TeamKey failed to trend, and was able to be hijacked by opponents, when National MPs themselves were not engaging with it on the whole, nor had they done anything to establish the support base that would use it.
I do realise this analysis ignores factors that I have talked about in earlier posts about the party hashtags. But there are two issues here, the choice and management of the hashtag, and the issue this post looks at, the long term game plan.