It’s a fact that when it comes to unfolding events, the social networks provide news junkies with up to the minute insights through a variety of sources from individuals to media organisations. And so it was this past weekend when the world’s eyes were on Mangaung and the ANC’s much-hyped centenary celebrations.
Tim Shier, managing director of online reputation management company, BrandsEye, says social networks accounted for “91% of the total conversation, with press sites driving around two percent of the total conversation”.
“The vast majority was on Twitter (7 935 mentions) but there was some Facebook conversation (2 011 mentions) too,” he says. But, says Shier, those figures don’t negate the usefulness of news sites. “Press play a different role in this space as far as I’m concerned. The press collate a number of sources and present a complete point of view. In social media it’s very fragmented and a concise view doesn’t often emerge. It’s also worth noting that by volume of conversation/articles it’s almost impossible for press sites to compete against the sheer size of the consumer base. This is why we typically expect press volumes to be a small proportion of the total volumes.”
Shier says sentiment around the event was “largely neutral” but the number of retweets suggests “information around of the event was of interest and therefore shared”. Themes included the cost of the event, former president Thabo Mbeki’s presence at celebrations and the ritual sacrifice of a bull outside the church where the ANC was formed in 1912.
“In order to track the event we set up a number of key phrases (such as ANC, African National Congress etc) and BrandsEye then searches the internet for any mention of this content. As events go this is a fairly small one. BrandsEye has the capability of bringing in hundreds of thousands of mentions an hour – which obviously doesn’t happen often,” Shier explains.
The social network activity around the ANC centenary event was nothing in comparison to the day of Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing at Luthuli House last year. The total conversation was 9 839 in 5 days, whereas the ANCYL hearing received 6 286 mentions in the 24 hours.
“The main reason was that individuals talking about the Malema hearing were able to have a strong point of view. As a consequence the market was divided between those in support of and those against the Malema situation (mostly against),” says Shier. “In contrast, there isn’t a particularly strong angle for consumers to take on the ANC 100 years celebrations. Furthermore, the centenary event was held over a weekend and lower volumes are expected in social data as is the case for general SA online behaviour over weekends.”
BrandsEye says the top contributors over the weekend were NewsInSA (NewsInSA) with 77 tweets; Jazlaw24 (Saber Jazbhav) with 47 tweets; RevCJVP (Clive J. Pillay) with 45 tweets and Demokratiese (Democratic Alliance) with 43 tweets. These were the top “engagers” in the conversation around the ANC’s celebration. Twitter conversation showed 6 744 unique authors, and 1 035 users who tweeted more than once.
Asked if the company monitors individual journalist’s output or just news organisations (something that would be of interest to ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, who has conducted such research), Shier says the company can do it “but it is a manual process to assign authors for press sites”.
“We do however have a piece of functionality which will resolve this in the coming weeks. We do determine sentiment but with more depth than just positive, negative, or neutral. We work on a 10-point sentiment scale to add additional context to the meta data that we calculate.”
There we go, Mr Mantashe, some useful information to keep an even closer eye on the journalists perceived to be working in opposition to the ANC!