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Why you won't find many Rob Ford supporters on Twitter

One of the biggest surprised for me the night that Rob Ford was elected mayor was how quickly he was declared the winner.  Just eight minutes after the polls officially closed, Mr. Ford was wearing a ceremonial lei around his neck.


And while the Ford camp was celebrating, the Twittersphere was burning up with anti-Ford chatter.  It was impossible to keep up with the tsunami of tweets using the #voteto or #cp24 hashtag, the overwhelming majority of which were anti-Ford.  Reactions ranged from absolute shock to seething rage and disgust, directed to both Ford and the Toronto electorate. 

Even TV station CP24, which has adopted the inane practice reading cherry picked tweets to its television viewers, commented on anti-Ford outcry, asking, “how did this guy get elected, when there seems to be such a negative reaction online?”  Given earlier analysis that showed that 80% of election talk was taking place on the micro blogging service, I thought the question merited closer inspection.

In comparing those who intended to vote for Mr. Ford or Mr. Smitherman to the audience that is on Twitter I used the most accurate poll of voter intentions collected by Ekos, which called a Ford win by 8% (he won by a 10% margin.)  The Twitter data is from a Canadian general population survey conducted by Northstar Research at the end of last year, meaning it may be a little old and broad, but I think that it still tells a good story.


There are two things that can be observed from this data.  The first is that Ford did remarkably well with people who clearly aren’t on Twitter.  Over 60% of people aged 65+ planned on voting for Ford,  while less than 10% of that population is on Twitter.  And the senior set is a group that has both the desire and time to cast a ballot.   Amongst people aged 25-44,  the heaviest Twitter users, voting intention was almost even.


Looking at education we see another stark divide.  Clearly, those that have spent more time at school, are heavier Twitter users and are more likely to have voted for Smitherman. People with a high school education or less were twice as likely to vote for Ford, yet are half as likely to be on Twitter compared to the University educated.

So, what are we to make of all of this?  There clearly seems to be something to the notion put forward by Richard Florida and others that there’s a divide emerging between the Creative Class and the masses, both in terms of voter intentions and social media participation.  The people talking about the election online, are only a sub-set of the 50% of the eligible voters who cast a ballot on election day.

With each election that passes, there’s a lot of talk about how candidates can make effective use of social media to get their message out.  Brands are confronting the same challenges and opportunity. But this election shows that there are still large swatches of the population that have not yet “joined the conversation.”

So when the Twittersphere raged against the Ford victory, how many of his supporters heard the outcry?  How many of them even cared?  It begs the question, is there a risk in social media that we are sometimes talking to the same people over and over?  Are we preaching to the converted?

What do you think?


Talk of Strategic Voting Begins to Heat Up

With three candidates remaining in the Toronto Mayoral Election, and only two with a reasonable chance of winning, voters are forced to consider voting with the minds instead of their hearts.  Just witness two recent editorials from the Torontoist and Now magazine suggesting voters "hold their nose" and vote for Smitherman versus Joe Pantalone, the most left-leaning candidate whom aligns with their traditional editorial stance.

So is all of this talk of strategic voting having any impact?  Building on our comprehensive analysis of the Toronto Mayoral Race (dating back to June) I conducted some basic key word analysis using phrases like "strategic voting", "vote strategically" , "anyone but Ford" etc. to determine if this movement was gaining any traction.

Strategic Voting Discussion, Sept 25 to October 24


In reviewing the findings, we definitely see talk of strategic voting escalating leading into today's election.  The conversation was kicked off in earnest as readers reacted to an article posted by The Star on October 6 .  After a brief lull, people are obviously thinking about it now that they must seriously consider where they'll be placing their X today.



The final word is in - Social Media analysis of the Toronto Mayoral Race



Will the groundswell of support in social media propel Smitherman to victory in the 2010 Toronto Mayoral Race?


With the election literally just days away, this report offers a final glimpse into how the remaining candidates, Rob Ford, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone are being discussed in social media circles.   And if social media analysis is any indication of the election outcome, then it is certain to be a very tight race.

The report has some interesting findings, the most significant being the groundswell of discussion propelling George Smitherman in the last week of the campaign.   For the first time, Smitherman has surpassed Ford in terms of absolute mentions.  Smitherman's upward trend has been matched by a downward trend in mention activity by Ford over the past 30 days.

Ford has continued his streak as eliciting the most negative comments in social media circles. Pantalone has the most positive discussion, however his conversation levels are much lower than the other candidates.

What will be interesting to see is whether Smitherman can convert all of the recent attention he's received in social media into votes come election day.  The latest poll release Friday suggests that Ford will emerge as the victor, but will this last piece of news galvanize Smitherman supporters and provide further momentum to the "Anyone but Ford" movement?




Conversations are not capital

I think that there are a number of things that social media does pretty well, including promote advocacy, provide customer support and inspire innovation, but the metrics against these objectives are still too fuzzy and not closely connected enough to business performance to substantiate increased investment.  Too often social media measurement results in information that’s “nice to know” rather than “need to have”.

 Don’t get me wrong, I think there is still merit in measuring social media against each of these objectives, but until business can draw a straighter line between social media and ROI, specifically in the form of sales and profit, social media will remain a small line item on the marketing budget.  There are three lines that matter in business, top, bottom and expense line, and right now social media has only really proven itself at contributing to the expense line, when used for customer service and crowdsourcing initiatives..

Not too long ago, I was approached by a senior client and he asked me if there were any industry benchmarks that would give him perspective on whether having 10K fans on Facebook was good, or not – particularly in light of the fact he’d already spent thousands of dollars in media in order to attract that fan base.  Now I know that there’s been a few studies around the value of a fan, and how Facebook fans tend to be loyal and buy your brand more often – but I was having a hard time looking him squarely in the eye to try and convince him of these findings, particularly when they were so divergent.  It’s probably because he would probably feel equally uncomfortable standing in front of his CFO citing the same numbers.

There needs to be more direct, causal link between online chatter, followers and fandom with sales.   That’s why I am very interested in the notion of social commerce – essentially the linking of social media and e-commerce.  Initiatives that effectively leverage the power and connectedness of social networks to drive the top line is what I think will substantially legitimize social media.  Then marketers will have concrete evidence that their investment in social media is actually paying off, even if the dollars are small at first, there will be some direct linkage between having a fan base and metrics that truly matter to business.

Until then, as a measurement industry we will need to concentrate on enhancing its measurement capabilities – moving beyond tracking mention activity and brand sentiment, getting into more detailed aspects of social media data.  I personally believe and have been selling solutions that provide clients a perspective of what people are talking about – using text analytics solutions to derive meaning out of aggregated posts online, tracking things like purchase intent, or more specific topics relating to brand and product attributes.

Short of being able to track commercial activity, I think the standard needs to be about what consumers are actually talking about – getting to the meaning of the conversation, rather than a 50 000 foot view of online chatter.  Then ultimately, when social commerce takes hold, we can start providing concrete linkages between things like purchase intent with conversion, which is all business really cares about anyway.


Call for Speakers: AMA Toronto “Social Commerce” Event

The American Marketing Association (Toronto chapter) social media group is planning an event in early December, and we are looking for speakers and sponsors. The subject:  Social Commerce.

What’s Social Commerce?  Think of it as social media meets e-commerce.  It’s still early days in social media, but there’s no question that clients need to find ways to link their social media efforts with a demonstrable return.  Group buying sites like Groupon, mobile apps like Foursquare / Facebook Places and other social shopping tools present a tremendous opportunity for brands to monetize their digital investments, and have generated some early and spectacular results.

Our last social media event held in the summer quickly sold out, attracting over 100 marketers from across the industry.  This event will represent another opportunity for you, or somebody you know to demonstrate some thought leadership about what we think will help propel social media into the stratosphere!

Please offer your recommendations, or contact directly if you are interested in participating.