Where the previous post dealt with the popularity (measured as the median amounts of likes, comments and shares) of Facebook posts made by Norwegian party leaders, the current post presents the popularity of posts characterized by their content. While an exhaustive description of the themes employed for this purpose goes beyond what is presented here, it is my intention here to provide such detail – rather, to give a quick glimpse into one of my ongoing research projects. Here we go:
As several of the error bars visible in this figure appear comparably larger to those reported in the previous one, the spread around the reported medians must be taken into account – especially when it comes to feedback in the form of likes, which much like in the previous figure comes up as most common across all themes. For this metric, then, posts featuring Acknowledgements (Md = 2494) – giving thanks to supporters, especially at the very end of the campaign – and those characterized as primarily focused on Critique (Md = 1881) emerge as yielding the highest amounts of likes, while the other metrics must be considered diminutive in comparison. As such, while showing gratitude towards or criticizing others appear to result in ample amounts of feedback, levels of engagement as a result of other thematic uses must be regarded as minimal in comparison. While an overarching analysis like the one performed here cannot provide a more qualitative assessment of the feedback measured, we can point to tendencies regarding what type of content, posted by politicians, that appears to resonate the most with their respective followers. As such, the findings provides some insight into what seems to “work” in an online setting – an empirical finding that is perhaps not especially conducive to the basic tenets of various normative theories of deliberation.
In a couple of previous posts, I compared the activity popularity of Swedish and Norwegian politicians on Facebook during a time when the latter of these countries underwent a parliamentary election – the idea being to look for tendencies of so-called permanent campaigning. In the present and coming post, I have looked more closely at the Norwegian data and tried to delve into two aspects of Facebook use at the hands of politicians – first, the division of likes, comments and shares between the party leaders; second, that same division across different themes posted about. Lets look at the former of these first. The data here were collected during a one-month period leading up to the elections, held in September of 2013. Please note the comparably small median shares and comments per post – a finding that suggests a need to re-think the so-called viral potential of social media services like these (at least in the context at hand).
The figure gauges the median amounts of likes, comments and shares per posts made by each party leader during the specified period. The error bars visible in the figure indicate the confidence intervals (95 %) for the reported medians, suggesting considerable variations regarding these metrics – especially with regards to the median amount of likes per post. With these distributions in mind, we can nevertheless conclude that especially in terms of likes, the leaders of the three largest parties – Stoltenberg (Md = 1587), Solberg (Md = 970) and Jensen (Md = 3878) – emerge as the most popular. As such, the suggestion made by Vaccari in his study of political web sites during the 2007 French presidential elections that larger parties “usually have stronger ICT infrastructures due to their superior resources” (2008: 6) appears to hold true also in a social media context (see also Gibson and McAllister, 2014). Jensen in particular stands out – especially when it comes to the median amounts of comments and shares. Here, the leader of the right-wing populist Progress Party appears to have enjoyed comparably larger amounts of success in terms of raising discussion and leveraging the viral aspects offered by the sharing functionality.
Gibson, R. K., & McAllister, I. (2014). Normalising or Equalising Party Competition? Assessing the Impact of the Web on Election Campaigning. Published before print in Political Studies
Vaccari, C. (2008). Surfing to the Elysee: The Internet in the 2007 French Elections. French Politics, 6(1), 1-22.