Engagement versus Response: The Scottish Question
The Scottish independence question dominated mainstream news over the last few weeks and I am not the only one with a Twitter feed full with commentary, opinions and updates from the two opposing campaigns and a sizeable yet varied audience in between. Mainstream news channels were accused of bias to the Yes campaign – tv debates, panel discussions and viewer polls were everywhere. Almost a quarter of voters were polled as undecided in the run-up to the vote.
The Yes campaign enjoyed a natural advantage of having the positive message: Yes to Scottish Independence from Great Britain. Full of national pride and promoting a confident Scottish identity, celebrity Scots such as Andy Murray and Sir Sean Connery, were at every possible photo opportunity, lending their promotional strength to persuade the voting public.
By default the No campaign had a natural negative slant and supporters seen as doubting Scottish strength. Worse still, the No campaign was positioned as pro-English, compounded by the campaign title and hashtag choice: #BetterTogether. This undeserved but nevertheless real weakness for Alistair Darling and his PR team, was reflected by reports from social media analysts that the No campaign was in second place right up to the moment voting stations opened.
Engagement is what brands and agencies aim to win on social media – proof that the talking and listening and hashtagging is actually joining up into meaningful results. However, research shows 40% of Twitter users only read, not post. This quiet section of hashtag using listeners are disparagingly known as “lurkers” but this sizeable section of social media users form nearly half the audience – their opinion, behaviour and response should not be overlooked. Engagement should form part of the measurement of social media marketing ROI but ultimately it is the results of a campaign which should be the ultimate judge of success. The Scottish result gave us an example of how all the buzz is no good without the end result – as Alex Salmond and his team found as the results were announced.
The social media analysis was proven not to be a true reflection of national opinion – the No vote won by a very convincing margin. This campaign shows a very modern human behaviour: what I say on my social media channels may not always convert into action. I Like plenty of catwalk photos from the big fashion houses at the #LFW fashion shows – I can assure you I will not be buying the Spring/Summer collection from Max Mara any time soon.
We align ourselves with positive messages on personal social media profiles, presenting the best version of ourselves. We Share posts which make us seem intelligent, we Like posts which contribute to the positive image of ourselves we want our circle and the wider the world to see – not necessarily who we actually are or how we really behave or respond. Brands should not throw up their hands in despair, instead I think the judgement of its value should be much deeper and wider than just the engagement stats.
What did you think of the misleading social media buzz versus the actual result of the referendum? *insert unbitquitous invitation to talk to me about it on Twitter*.