This report builds on earlier studies examining social media activity involving the principal candidates in the 2010 Toronto Mayoral election: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone and George Smitherman.
It reviews conversations taking place on social networks and reports on propensity of each candidate to be mentioned online as well as the accompanying sentiment from September 20 to October 21
This report offers a final effort to understand which candidate is winning the “word of mouth” war online, and will serve as the final reference for the relationship between online chatter and actual voting results come election day October 25.
Social media is conversation or interaction between people online. Unlike traditional news media, which tries to maintain objectivity and fairness in reporting the news, social media is a domain of unfettered subjectivity and bias. It’s an environment where innuendo assumes equal prominence alongside fact, and where special interests are forever seeking to leverage the channel’s potential to influence opinion and alter outcomes in their favour. It truly is a new and wild frontier.
Traditional polling asks voters who they plan to vote for. Social media provides a broader perspective. The volume and tone of discussion provides a real-time indication of voter engagement and intentions, possibly foretelling the fortune of the candidates based on the response and potential influence of the medium.
Smitherman is the only candidate whose average mentions have increased (by 8%) since Thomson departed the race on September 27, highlighted by a noticeable climb in activity since the last televised debate.
Thomson drops out, throws support to Smitherman Final CP24 Debate Poll compels Rossi to exit race Daily Average: 583 n= 18668
Elections are often characterized by momentum. As this particular campaign comes to a close, it would appear as if George Smitherman has momentum on his side, at least in terms of the being the candidate that people are talking about. For the first time in the past month, and in any of the social media studies done on this election, Smitherman has surpassed Ford as the most discussed candidate.
Sentiment towards each of the candidates has remained relatively constant. Ford has always been a controversial, polarizing figure which is supported by the fact the he’s consistently fostered the most negativity. Then again, one might expect that the campaign front-runner would be subject to the most criticism, particularly in social media where his opponents strive to knock him off of his pedestal. Smitherman has maintained his positive sentiment scores, even during the last crucial week when his volume of mentions have increased.
There are a couple of bright spots with the Pantalone campaign. While hasn’t really engendered as much chatter as his opponents, he’s consistently achieved the most positive sentiment scores, and has done remarkably well on the social networks, having more Facebook friends than both of his opponents and more Twitter followers than Ford.
We used specialized social media software to aggregate English language mentions of the three remaining candidates in the race from September 20 through October 21 th . The software collected information from social media sources like blogs, discussion forums, Twitter, mainstream media articles and comments. Data from image sites like YouTube and Flickr was not included. Data from Facebook was limited to publicly available content only, meaning any private conversations between friends that are protected by passwords and user privacy settings were not collected. Essentially, anything that is considered part of the public domain was considered for the analysis.
The system looks for mentions based on a query consisting of key words. The complete list of key words and exclusions is contained in the appendix. In general we used a combination of the candidates formal names (e.g George Smitherman) in addition to naming conventions commonly used as part of the online vernacular (e.g. Joey Pants).
Sentiment was calculated using an automated sentiment engine, which essentially looks for overtly positive or negative words that modify the subject, i.e. the candidates names
Patrick Gladney was one of the first marketers in Canada to specialize in the area of social media research. He pioneered Social Currency™, a social media practice for Northstar Research Partners. His approach utilizes traditional research practices and principles to derive true insight from social media, a process that differs considerably from basic brand monitoring that’s become commonplace today. His experience working with clients such as BMW, Fairmont Hotels, RBC and The Toronto Star affords him a keen understanding of both how and why consumers engage in social media and how to accurately measure and understand consumer opinion. And because he has also worked for over 15 years in the advertising and communications industry, Patrick can advise on online and offline marketing solutions that respect the challenges confronting businesses in this new age of communications.