Election Day Special – Social Intelligence in Politics

Date: Thursday, May 7, 2015 Date: Thursday, May 7, 2015 Time: 07:45 - 09:15 Location: The Corinthian Club, Glasgow

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This month we were interested to find out how social intelligence affects politics especially with the pending election, that’s why we invited along Chief Intelligence Officer at Disruptive Insight, Jillian Ney, the UK’s first doctor of social media to tell us all about it.

Jillian spent the election campaign analyzing the conversations the parties were having on social media but more importantly what the nation was saying about them on social media.

The conversations on social media might seem like a lot of in comprehendible noise to most of us but in fact there were some real insights into just what the public perception of the politicians is. Take the live debates for example – who would have thought the main topic of conversation on social media was not about ‘oil’ the ‘referendum’ or the ‘colour of Nicola Sturgeons outfit’, it was how poor the quality of the debates were – “who knew”.

We also found out how popular (or not) each leader was depending on the topic they were discussing. Jillian reported the online conversations and marked each leader against each topic including; education, immigration, independence and so on.

As we all know we were led to believe that this election would be the tightest contest to call in years and that we were almost guaranteed to have another coalition of some sort, which of course proved almost everyone wrong. While Jillian was unable to make predictions from the data and conversations analysed it certainly showed us that many more people were engaged than in past elections, people are genuinely interested in how the country is run and are prepared to discuss and sometimes argue their points with one another on social media. I guess in the past all we could rely on was watching the election campaigns unfold on TV or discussing it down the pub or at work.

“You can’t measure words and feelings with numbers” Jillian told us when referring to non-sensical bar charts and percentages which don’t actually analyse meaningful conversations, we are often left saying “so what’ to many of them because they don’t actually tell us anything. Although one stat was interesting, in the gender split online conversations were 65% male & 35% female.

We also heard about the ‘Spiral of silence’ – an interesting concept which was apparent in the election, but more so during last years referendum. It’s when one political opinion / side to the argument is repeated again and again almost forcefully to the point where those with an opposing opinion go quiet. Of course their true feelings can be seen at the ballot box and perhaps this is where the support for the tory party came out top overall – we just didn’t hear about it during the campaign as much and that’s why the predictions were misleading.

Clearly social media plays a part in allowing the parties and the public to have open debate, providing a forum for excitement and passion to be shared and of course challenged, and the presentation and findings that Jillian shared with us gave us great insight into the mood of the voters and the real conversation had around the election.

In summary the broader message was about engagement and conversation between everyone rather than ‘Broadcast’ by the parties.

A big thanks goes to Jillian once more for her research and engaging and informative presentation and we look forward to inviting her back sometime in the future.


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