Webometric Thoughts

February 15, 2009

Twitter, Politics, and Looking for Meaningful Metrics

Filed under: Twitter,metrics,politics,twitometrics,webometrics — admin @ 11:57 am

As Twitter seems to be the latest shiny web site that has everyone interested, and with a general election on its way (well, June 2010 at the latest), I decided to see how the political parties have taken to Twitter.

The most simple comparison is between the raw numbers of the parties:
Obviously these numbers don’t look good for the Labour Party, not listening and not many followers. They don’t even have a single account, but rather two different streams with the same information.

Whilst such comparisons will be made with increasing regularity as the election approaches, for example:
…, we quickly realise we need to take into consideration a far wider variety of Twitter accounts and take into consideration other metrics.

@DowningStreet, the official Twitter channel for the office of the Prime Minister, provides a total different perspective on the Labour Party’s fortunes.
If @DowningStreet’s Twitter friends were an indication of support, Gordon could expect a landslide victory at the next general election. Unfortunately things are not that simple. As one comment to @DowningStreet shows, people follow for many different reasons:

any chance next week i can have a pic taken outside No.10? im visiting for a few days? i know its cheeky but i had to ask!

Obviously @DowningStree is not the only other UK political Twitterer, many individuals, groups and departments have accounts. All contributing to the complex picture of the UK political landscape.

Twitter potentially offers a lot of useful information about both the attitude of the parties to the electorate, and the electorate to the parties. Unfortunately, as with all webometric studies, for meaningful answers to be arrived at there needs to be distinct methodical steps rather than just a grabbing of raw data:
1) Select appropriate Twitter accounts to answer the research question.
2) Investigate Twitter interactions:
Not only ‘do they follow and have followers’, but are they ReTweeting comments and Responding to questions directed at them.
3) Investigate the nature of the interactions:
Unfortunately the simplest way of finding out the nature of many of the connection is to analyse the comments, a very long and tedious process.

As with so many things on the web, it would be interesting to investigate, if only one had the time.

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