3:32pm

Wed May 18, 2011
All Politics are Local

Social Media Change Primary

Candidates in last night’s primary election were celebrating and commiserating in hotels, restaurants and campaign headquarters across the state. But the real action was online. Even for a contest with 10 percent turnout, activity on Twitter was feverish at times for followers and users of the #kyelect and #kyelects hashtags.

It’s a scientific principle of the news business that whenever a story is covered, a chunk of the audience says the coverage is too much and another chunk says it’s not enough. So, to measure the fatigue or interest in last night’s election updates, I turned to TweetEffect.

The un-scientific website measures Twitter users’ followers and pins gains or losses in followers to specific tweets. So we can see if certain tweets led to people following or unfollowing a specific user.

There are a number of other factors that determine followers and those aren’t being taken into account here. There are Twitter bots that automatically follow people based on certain words they post, and Twitter regularly deletes these bots. That’s likely the reason behind many of the spikes in users seen on TweetEffect. Twitter users may also follow, unfollow and block other users for arbitrary reasons not related to content. A person may hear someone is worth following or decide they don’t want so many political campaigns, media outlets or celebrities filling in their feeds and act accordingly. No matter what the reason, TweetEffect counts it.

So, given that disclaimer, let’s look at how the number of followers fluctuated for some of the more active and notable local Twitter users. These numbers all reference the days leading up to and including the primary.

Republican gubernatorial primary winner David Williams’s account (@williamsfarmer) lost four followers overall. His general election opponent, Democratic Governor Steve Beshear (@beshearabramson) ran unopposed and had no change in followers.

Williams’s closest primary opponent was Phil Moffett (@moffetttharmon11), who lost one follower but gained five, giving the campaign a net increase of four followers. Moffett’s campaign manager David Adams (@davidadamsinky) also gained and lost followers, but stayed even overall.

The numbers were similarly mundane for news outlets that followed the races closely:

Two of the Courier-Journal’s accounts (@courierjournal and @cjnews) showed little to no change, though @courierjournal gained followers more often than it lost them.

@wfplnews (that’s us!) lost followers once and gained them thrice.

Other media outlets that posted frequently have similar numbers. In fact, the most activity appears to have surrounded Joe Sonka of Barefoot and Progressive. He lost followers 11 times and gained new followers 24 times.

But how many of them were robots? We’ll never know.