Battling to be heard: the mainstream, the far right… and Miley Cyrus?

Any social media campaigner worth his salt will tell you that Twitter outreach requires you to listen.

So let’s tune in to the conversations on the European Parliament elections. What do we hear? A battle between Left and Right over jobs and growth stirring interest amongst apathetic voters? Euroscepticism running wild? Or is it all drowned out by Miley Cyrus (yes, really)?

For more than two months we have been following discussions using hashtags such as #EP2014, #GreenPrimary, #knockthevote, #up2youth and #ALDEcongress.

See the data in our digital centre

As in our last analysis, the Parliament’s various accounts are still driving the conversation, with the launch of the official elections website creating the largest spike to date in posts about the elections. If parties and candidates use the wave of interest the Parliament creates, they will be able to access a much broader audience.

The European political parties are beginning to catch up. The European People’s Party‘s Up2Youth website was amongst the top ten most shared domains and the EPP Twitter account featured the most retweeted tweets in the past month.

For the Party of European Socialists, #VotePES and #knockthevote are growing in popularity and have joined #vote4animals and #animalwelfare as amongst the most popular hashtags about the elections.

However, the clear winner is #GreenPrimary, used almost 2,500 times in the past 30 days.

Not to be outdone, three Dutch Liberal politicians from the Democrats 66 party – MEPs Sophie in ‘t Veld and Marietje Schaake, and Dutch MP Kees Verhoeven – are all in the top five most-retweeted accounts on the subject of the European Parliament elections.

In parallel, there is an ongoing debate about the far right (generated by both supporters and opponents). The single most-popular news article on the elections was a BBC piece on Dutch politician Geert Wilders. But there was more to this than originally met the eye.

This December, numerous Twitter spam accounts posted tens of thousands of posts – in a questionable ‘tribute’ to American pop star Miley Cyrus – each using the hashtag #wreckingbaIl (the penultimate letter being a capital ‘I’, presumably to avoid filters that exclude #wreckingball). The text of the tweets was taken directly from newspaper headlines.

For example:

We could have removed this from our monitor – although it does not alter the results significantly – but we kept it in order to demonstrate the need to be aware of these anomalies when following the debate on the elections.

So what do we hear now at the end of 2013 (apart from one of the major hits of the year)?

First, there is an online discussion about the European Parliament elections, and it is growing (albeit gradually). Second, the parties are becoming more vocal and influential in the discussions and are using their own hashtags. Third, the impact of the mainstream media on Twitter is still extremely important.

And finally – beware of wrecking bots.

Marek Zaremba-Pike