Social Connections Help Define UK Politics

We analysed 21 British media outlets’ Facebook Pages to see how they connected to the major parties’ and politicians’ Pages.

Social Connections Help Define UK Politics

To see how this same research can be applied to brands, see how I tested this on TV shows last year.

In depth, we analysed the social connections made between:

  • 21 UK media outlets (7 TV/radio station, 14 print or online media)
  • Private Eye, Viz Comic, Huffpost UK Politics, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Independent, The Times and The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, Daily Express, Sky News, Daily Mail, The Daily Star, The Mirror, The Sun, ITV, ITV2, E4, Kiss FM (UK), Capital FM, Heart London, STV News
  • 6 UK political parties
  • The Labour Party, Green Party of England and Wales, Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, UKIP
  • 7 UK political leaders
  • Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Alex Salmond

Watch every party and politicians’ social performance in real time!

From these groups, we identified three distinct clusters, and mapped them out using a clustering algorithm in the open source software, Gephi.

Each dot in the map represents the Facebook Page of either a UK political party, political leader or media outlet. The dots that are connected with a gray line are very closely connected to each other. Connections are based on shared Interactions (likes, shares and comments) with those Pages by Fans of both.

The colour of the dots denote similar groups. Generally, the bigger the dot is, the more Pages there are linked to that Page. The more users who like Posts on two Pages, the closer those two brands (in this case, political parties, politicians, or media) are on Facebook.

In one cluster, shown below as blue dots, we found mostly left-leaning political Pages that were closely connected to only two major media outlets: HuffPost UK Politics and Private Eye. Those two news outlets, smaller ones similar to them, and more centrist political factions intersected here, at the meeting point of mainstream and liberal-leaning Pages.

The right-leaning political parties and leaders’ Pages cluster together in an outlying group, connected primarily to the red cluster. This cluster is comprised of what we’ll call “specialty news outlets” — including anything from tabloids to Scottish TV (STV News)*, which in addition to being the SNP’s primary media connection, also serves as an essential bridge between the red group and the mainstream blue group.

The Mirror is the main hub here, though Sky News and The Sun are also well-connected. While The Mirror also connects to some pages from the blue cluster, it’s a less close connection than to the ‘fringe’ outlets, like FM radio stations and saucy tabloids like The Daily Star. However, the only political Pages that the The Mirror is socially connected to are Ed Miliband and his Labour Party.

And then finally, there are the centre-right leaning news outlets. They tend to be older, vestigial publications like The Times and The Sunday Times, which serve as one of the most-connected Pages in our entire study. Though their Fans connected them more closely to the Conservatives than any other political entity, the two papers’ social connections extend to each major Page involved in UK politics. And that is the sign of a marketable newspaper, whose Fans are interested in a wide range of other topics and groups.

This research applies best to a brand landscape – where advertisers can inform their targeting and ad buy choices with insight into where else their audience is likely to be, and what other kind of Posts their audience will see in their News Feeds.

For more on this, check out our election coverage in Brand Republic, and head over to the Socialbakers blog to see how Twitter followers are influencing the election.

*We chose STV News as a representative of various Scottish news organisations. In reality, they serve collectively as the bridge point that STV News is shown as doing in our map.

Head of Research and Development

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