John Key, David Cunliffe, Russel Norman and some Twitter analytics

The way a person uses Twitter can tell you a lot about them. One of the great things about Twitter is the range of applications that have been written to use the Twitter API. One of them is Twitonomy allows you to analyse  your own, or others, Twitter accounts. Due to a limitation of the Twitter API, each app is only only allowed to access the last 3200 Tweets of any single account. This limitation does crop up in this post, however I will address that later.


Please note, all screen grabs should be in the order of David Cunliffe, Russel Norman, John Key. 


Firstly, lets compare some raw stats:

dc1 rn1 jk10


It is obvious that John Key has the highest number of followers, but this is not surprising for the Prime Minister. What is surprising however is that Russel Norman has nearly 2,500 more followers than David Cunliffe, even though David is leader of a much larger party than Russel. The statistic about David that I find most odd is that he follows so many accounts. John follows 1 account for every 43 accounts that follow him, Russel Norman follows one account for every 23 accounts, but David follows 1 account for only every 0.94 accounts that follow him. I have not been able to figure out the reason for this. I can not imagine how fast his timeline must be moving.




It is this part of the analysis where It is important to point out, both David and John have sent less than the 3200 result limit on the Twitter API. This means taht the starts for them cover their whole time on Twitter, however, due to his much more access Twitter presence, Russel’s results are worked out only on the period of November 2012 till today. However since most of what we are going to be looking at are percentage stats, as well as the roughly even total tweet sample size, I believe this should not be a huge issue. I suspect Russel’s Tweeting habits haven’t changed hugely in from the period before November 2012 to the period since then.


It is obvious that Russel is the most active of the three party leaders on Twitter, both in simple number of Tweets (DC 1657, RN 5902, JK 2305) as well as in the number of Tweets per day he is sending (DC 0.87, RN 6.75, JK 1.29). The number of retweets(DC 388, RN 1055, JK 80), and the % of their Tweets they take up(DC 23%, RN 33%, JK 3%), are worth looking at. Twitonomy says that the higher this number, the more this account interacts with others, which is a fair assessment. But I thin, it is also important to look at the percentage of their Tweets that are reTweets. I would say that 3% is rather low. I consider myself to be a reasonably active reTweeter. Since 15 Dec. 2013 I have retweeted 152 Tweets, or around 5% of my total Tweets. If we use an MP as an example, Tau Henare has made 291 reTweets since 11 Sept. 2013, or 9% of his total Tweets. If you are a party leader and you have 25-35% of your Tweets simply being reTweets, then I would suggest it might be time to start trying to generate more original content.


I should also point out, John Key’s account has been reasonably consistently busy Tweeting from the start, Russel is pretty consistent as well, with the only major periods of downtime being around late Jan, when I assume he takes a summer break. However, David Cunliffe obviously joined Twitter, sent 1, maybe 2 Tweets, then gave up on it for over 3 years.


It is clear that Russel Norman uses hashtags much more in his Tweets. Anyone who uses Twitter knows that including hashtags helps get your Tweet seen by more people, and makes it easier for people to find. 507 different hashtags, with a hashtag in 1 in every 6 Tweets is a good number. David is using hashtags almost as often, but he is using a much smaller range of hashtags.


The last stat on this screen that I want to look at is reTweets (of their Tweets by others). The more a Tweet is reTweeted, the more people there are who will likely see it. With over 100,000 followers, it is obvious that John will have the most reTweets, which he does, by a factor of 2. However, he also has the highest percentage of his Tweets being reTweeted, 75.7%. So the account is posting content that is  being retweeted more often than the other accounts. David and Russel are pretty even, as a percentage, of how often they are being reTweeted. But ever time Russel gets reTweeted, he is getting reTweeted by more people.




This screen grab shows who the source of the reTweets in the users timeline come from. Unsurprisingly, for all of them we see official party accounts and other MPs. What is different is that with Russel there is also a party staffer, Clint Smith, who features highly on the list. David has a number of reTweets from Helen Clark as well as former Labour Candidate and current CEO of Internet NZ, Jordan Carter. Both David and Russel have well known left wing blogger No Right Turn on their retweet list. Where as John has mainly party and MP accounts, with a single sports person on there.



The first thing that jumps out from this set of stats is that John’s account is pretty much a broadcast only account, with what in effect amounts to no replies. David on the other hand has a range of non MP/political type accounts on his most replied to list, which suggest that his account is both broadcasting, but also listening and replying. Russel meanwhile has a wide range of people in his list, including National MPs and Minister, as well as David Farrar and Matthew Hooton.



David’s list of most mentioned has the odd inclusion of himself at the top, followed by Selwyn Pellett, who was one of the funders of David’s leadership challenge. It is interesting that David’s former leader David Shearer is on that list. Russel’s list is pretty similar to his most replied to list, which is reasonable to expect. Where as John’s reads as a list of who a party leader and PM would talk about. As well, they are all pretty evenly spread.




Hashtags, it is pretty obvious who out of these three party leaders uses hashtags and uses them well. Russel seems to have a much better grasp of how important hashtags are for getting your Tweets out to people who don’t follow you. The interesting hashtag on David’s list is voyagenz, which appears to be associated with Voyage NZ, who have reTweeted non other than, Selwyn Pellet.




Once again, when it comes to the Tweets with the most reTweets and favorites, Russel is Leader of the Opposition. David’s most reTweeted Tweet barely beats Russel’s third most successful Tweet, and doesn’t even make it half way to the figure of reTweets that Russel’s most successful Tweet has.


John Key’s top two most successful Tweets are doing very well. However for an account with over 100,000 followers, his next 3 most successful Tweets are getting pretty poor results. under 200 Tweets is less than 0.2% of your followers reTweeting something.


There are some more analytics that Twitonomy provides, however they are not really that insightful for what we are looking at here. So I will leave you to go look at those.


In conclusion, what we have here is a Prime Minister with a very much broadcast style account, which does not engage with its followers, despite the reasonable level of engagement with it from its follows. An account from the Leader of the Opposition that for some reason follows more accounts than follow it, whose most mentioned account is itself, and that feels the need to fill nearly 1/4 of its feed with reTweets.  It is also an account that has multi year long silent period right after it started. Add in an account being run by Russel, where the only criticism I can fairly level at him is his over use of reTweets, we have a situation where the Leader of the third party in Parliament, and the junior partner in the opposition is beating the Leader of the Opposition for followers, reTweets (of his Tweets) and engagement. Along with actually engaging with people, and those people are from all over the political spectrum.


The two major parties, and those responsible for running their leaders Twitter accounts, could learn a lot from Russel Norman.


If Labour wish to see the cut through they hope for in the social media sphere, they have lots to work on. At the same time, National need to start taking social media seriously full stop. Social media is not something you play at, it is something you do, or you go home.




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