The battle for Twitter

April 9, 2010

Paul AfsharPaul Afshar is senior account manager at public relations firm Edelman. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Twitter claimed its first scalp in the Election campaign on Friday with the sacking of Labour candidate for Moray in Scotland, Stuart MacLennan, following a series of controversial tweets on the site.

Whether or not 140 characters will influence the election campaign is a moot point, but with 2.5 million UK users including the PM’s wife Sarah Brown and actor Stephen Fry, Twitter will no doubt have some influence on conversation around the campaign.

To track its impact, Edelman has used its Political TweetLevel tool to track and measure the influence, trust engagement and popularity of the top 150 politicians, bloggers, candidates and journalists, ranked by their influence, on Twitter during the campaign.

TweetLevel measures the influence of individuals on Twitter based on a number of factors (including re-tweets, followers, frequency of tweets, references etc measured by an algorithm).

But enough about the science and down to the findings.

The battle for influence on Twitter is decisively being won by Labour, a trick the party will no doubt want to emulate in the polls.  Labour politicians and candidates are greater in number and by influence in the top 150 with MP for West Bromwich East Tom Watson topping the ranking, beating even Downing Street and David CameronGrant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister beats all other Conservative MPs for influence, closely followed by party favourite Eric Pickles.

Conservative blogger Iain Dale’s influence in the blogosphere extends to Twitter as he beats his counterparts to win battle of the bloggers, and Tory leaning bloggers Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) and Tory Bear beat their Labour leaning counterparts taking the 10th and 13th spot respectively.

However, the perhaps unfairly termed ‘dead tree press journalists’ are not far behind with Evening Standard stalwart Paul Waugh the most influential journalist.

The PM’s wife, Sarah Brown, has seen her influence and popularity on Twitter fall in comparison to her husband, with Downing Street now exceeding Mrs Brown’s 1.1 million followers.  And the battle of the Miliband brothers is being won by David who, we’re sure much to the chagrin of his younger brother Ed, wins by influence and popularity.

The UK’s millions of Twitterers look to none other than the former deputy PM turned online activist John Prescott as the most trusted with his Go Fourth battle brother Alastair Campbell taking the tenth spot for influence.

Notable absentees from the top 150 include the bête noir of the Daily Mail, Harriet Harman, darling of BBC news Nick Robinson and host of Sky’s Prime Ministerial debate Adam Boulton.

Here are the top 10:

1.    Tom Watson (MP for West Bromwich East)

2.    John Prescott (Former Deputy Prime Minister)

3.    Iain Dale (Conservative blogger)

4.    Sarah Brown (Wife of the Prime Minister)

5.    Downing Street (Effectively the PM’s Twitter)

6.    Kerry McCarthy (Labour’s Twitter ‘Tsar’ and MP for Bristol East)

7.    Lib Dems (Effectively Nick Clegg’s Twitter)

8.    Conservatives (Effectively David Cameron’s Twitter)

9.    Guido Fawkes (Conservative Blogger)

10.  Alastair Campbell (Former Director of Communications for Tony Blair)


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Interesting, not least for trying to work out what logical conclusions can be drawn from the information. I suspect it’s only that Labor supporters tend to be more active and vociferous than other party supporters. I’m not sure it carries any information, or has any influence on likely voting intentions. Unless of course the influence is secondary, with Tweets driving the non-Twitter media??

I hope someone looks at the possible linkages once the outcome is known, because a thoughtful informed analysis of the impact of Twitter and Facebook is going to be fascinating!

Posted by Percy Pants | Report as abusive

As the previous comment noted, Labour voters are quite active, and as Twitter is an amplifier, all the action is in an echo chamber. Twitter, Facebook or any other social media website will not decide the election because like it or not, it’s the swinging voters that decide the match, not the MPs tweets (and to be honest, what value does a tweet have in cyberspace). Also, UK politics is structured: Always Left vs Right with a bit of fanaticism on the sides, class mentality grilled into one at birth. Swinging voters are probably smart enough to look beyond social media slanging matches.

Posted by Simon Drake | Report as abusive