Social Media and Political Parties in Ireland

It’s going to be an Internet election in Ireland? Bollox it is.

There are two million people in Ireland on Facebook.

Fine Gael has 2776 fans on Facebook.
Fianna Fail has 1770 fans on Facebook.
Labour has 1421 fans on Facebook. It also has 1960 “Friends” on a personal profile which is against the Facebook terms and conditions and is still interacting with people as of today.

0.13% are fans of Fine Gael
0.0885% are fans of Fianna Fail
0.07105% are fans of Labour

17,000 Irish people are fans of Barcardi. Why like? That’s 0.85% of Irish Facebook users.

Spin SouthWest meanwhile has 58,000 fans. That’s 2.9% of Facebook, for a regional station?

If the excuse is Facebook has the wrong demographics then it shows the total ignorance involved in this. Every demographic are on Facebook and in very large numbers. The election in March is still going to be done the old way by the old faces with a few appointed kids fake tweeting and Facebooking for the parties. And they’ll pat themselves on the back for it afterwards too in their special advisor or quango roles.

More five second analysis of everything the parties are doing wrong will probably follow. Love Damien, who apparently consults for a political party.

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14 Responses to “Social Media and Political Parties in Ireland”

  1. David Quaid says:

    Interesting post Damien. This is just my view and feel free to point out that I’m different or wrong or that this is not representative …

    The number of fans do seem quite low. But then on a social media network where you’re sharing personal likes with friends, why share politics? I like sharing photographs, news. I don’t want to know who my friends are voting for nor do I want to bore them with the details. I’m also not party-political – so I don’t believe in joining a party and sticking with them regardless of the really stupid things they’ll do (because, frankly they all are)

    With the like button – while I understand why a company/ brand/party/person would love them – What do you do after that? Why would you just thumbs up a company? What will it do for a political party? What does it do for YOU the user? Nothing really. Except maybe it says “hey I’m a sheep” ?

    If I see a good few of my friends liking Party Y and I don’t agree with their policies, I’m just going to raise some arguments / unfriend a few people. Ok, that’s a bit of a joke. But its not going to make me like them.

    I like Facebook because it isn’t controlled by the state, party politics and RTE. I get to choose my own content and you know what – I probably tend to choose content that I enjoy and I find relaxing. you know, downtime etc.

    As for the parties – sure they could be doing a lot more for themselves on Facebook – I’m just glad they don’t.

    Just my 2c

  2. Steph says:

    I agree.This probably won’t be an “Internet election” but it will be more “internetty” than the last. Expect plenty of screw ups, spamming & noise across FB & Twitter. It’s already started with FG suddenly harping on on Twitter tonight.

    The parties – Labour in particular with their fresher faced candidates – could be and should be using these media to their advantage but now that they’re faced with a short window for getting the vote it’s an area most likely left to the interns or forgotten completely.

    As you say, it’ll be done the old way. And this is because so much of our political thinking & practises haven’t changed with the times either. I hope I’m wrong about that but can’t see the likes of FG getting their online act together any time soon.

    Hardcore FFers will still vote FF because they always have and always will. You’ll have candidates being put forward because of their ancestary (- ake Hillary being put up for FF in Clare as an example, guy is based full time in Dublin, not a breeze of local issues. It’ll take enough effort convincing him to go out and canvass not to mind get an FB campaign going.

    That said, it could be an interesting learning experience for onlookers like ourselves.

    Time to tape up the doorbell.

  3. TUG says:

    ULA probably have more fans combined if you delved into it… A supposition but in any way, shape or form you cut it, Irish politics and facebook are equally irrelevant.

    And Irish politics are certainly not done on facebook.

    It’s all done on the Green’s twitter feeds, great entertainment.

    I’ll miss Senator Dan!!!

  4. Jack says:

    It would be interesting to compare the fan numbers of political parties to the amount of friends election candidates have on Facebook. It is still parish pump politics in this country and I would bet that you can get numerous candidates from all major parties with more personal friends than the number that are fans of their respective party.

    I am friends with one of my local TDs on Facebook. He reached out to me and some of my other friends. He would have known us, known our family’s etc so I had no problem accepting the request.

    He has embraced Facebook and has been adding friends with gusto especially in recent months. Updates concern local news and he “likes” many local initiatives. It was only yesterday that I noticed he “liked” his own party. It certainly seemed an after thought on his part.

  5. Derek Organ says:

    I think you might be wrong on this one. While those numbers could be higher I think its a social thing. Most people don’t want all there ‘friends’ on facebook to know what party they support.

    Its like the saying about politics and religion.. no one wants to say something that will offend half of the audience.

    Those trying to make a statement will but most people don’t want to do that.

  6. Derek Organ says:

    I think you might be wrong on this one. While those numbers could be higher I think its a social thing. Most people don’t want all there ‘friends’ on facebook to know what party they support.

    Its like the saying about politics and religion.. no one wants to say something that will offend half of the audience.

    Those trying to make a statement will but most people don’t want to do that.

  7. Will Knott says:

    Can you compare and contrast the Party pages with the candidate pages and profiles?

    Sad as it sounds, frequently a person is elected due to being liked (as opposed to ‘liked’) by their local electorate. Even with a strong party pull, the most liked candidate for that party would get through. (Hence the importance to attend the right weddings and funerals and attending to certain potholes and a**holes).

    This could mean that if all the candidates in an area have a profile, the one with the most ‘friends’ might get the most votes.

    Is it possible to get those statistics, either for a single constituency or for the nation?

  8. Paul Anthony says:

    Compare the Obama campaign to any party over here. VoteforChange was advertised on computer games for gawd’s sake, as well as the insane sweeping motion across all realms of social media.

    Those numbers spoke for themselves.

    This isn’t a case of people being apathetic, or not wanting their ‘friends’ to know what way they are voting. Granted, budgets aren’t close between the two, but smells of poor implementation, and lack of understanding of the platform to me.

  9. Think @Paul hints at a wider issue. People not proud of their politics. Or the vocal ones embarrass others enough to actually censor their fellow supporters.

  10. TUG says:

    A little transparency never hurt anyone but Irish politics has been so tribal that speaking your mind on FF or FG could have an effect on a career or whatever… Your wider issue is a lot more nuanced… At least, we don’t have to declare whether we are Republicans or Democrats… Although it is Census time coming up shortly… Maybe I’ll follow the Church of Mulley this time out!!!

  11. @TUG
    You take the GPO, I’ll take the Mill.

  12. Bill says:

    ‘People not proud of their politics.’

    Absolutely true. Not very many politicians out there to be proud of Damo…

  13. Treasa says:

    I can’t see this being an internet based election on the simple grounds that a lot of voters don’t even interact with media much through internet, never mind political parties.

    That being said, I don’t see that figures for likes/friends on FB as a valid metric by which to measure how internet based an election could be here for the simple reason that the voters who matter – those changing from last time out – are almost certain not to declare any allegiance on FB or anywhere else. As a set of stats, it’s very self selecting and probably not representative of the population of Ireland on FB as a whole never mind the population of Ireland, both on and not on FB.

    Does it matter? Probably not all that much to be honest. A lot depends on the level of political interaction online and if you take – for example – politics.ie or the politics forum on boards.ie, a key feature of discourse in Ireland is that it consists of a lot of yelling and not much actual discussion.

    When you can get the level of interaction changed, more livechats allowing greater access to senior politicals, then maybe. Get them on IrishDebate.com possibly as well as interacting more effectively on twitter (let’s face it Dan Boyle and Paul Gogarty were entertaining rather than actually interacting on twitter) then maybe you can see the election moving away from the normal hustings and canvassing here.

  14. Eamonn Carey says:

    I think the point about people not being open/proud of their politics is very true. For the sake of a micro, two minute comparison, I took a look at the three main political parties in the UK.

    The Conservatives have almost 131,000 fans, Labour have just over 93,000 and the Lib Dems have about 500 more fans – about 93,600. So based on a population of 61 million, that’s about 0.002% of the population for the Conservatives and about 0.0015% for both Labour and the Lib Dems.

    I think people don’t wear their politics on their sleeves any more. I certainly don’t know what way many of my friends vote (though I have my suspicions about some). Also, I think a lot more people are floating voters. I remember when I was younger people used to be FF or FG voters – regardless of the candidate standing or the policies advocated by the party. That’s definitely not as prevalent now. I think people are far more likely to be a fan of a particular politician than be a fan of an overall party.