Two months after the European Parliament launched its elections information campaign, genuine online political campaigning and debate around the polls is beginning to gather pace.
Since 17 October we have using social media tracking tool Keyhole monitored 14,360 posts by 7,960 users on the European elections. As explained in a previous post, these tweets and Facebook messages which have the collective potential to reach nearly 24 million accounts will not include every single post on the 2014 elections, but nonetheless cover a sizeable chunk of the online debate.
Whether this figure is high or low depends on your perception: it is low in terms of the overall European electorate (around 380 million people), but the elections are still more than six months away. These numbers can be expected to grow considerably, and this current audience is a signal of the potential reach of social media campaigning.
Perhaps what is more interesting are the people and topics that are driving the discussions.
The chart above shows how conversations are maturing from mid-October, before which posts were driven by the official European Parliament and European Commission accounts. Now, we are starting to see genuine political discussions emerge.
The largest spike in the graph (on 21 October) is due to the launch of a new video from the European Parliament (their first video got just under seven million views on the institutions YouTube channel), while the second spike, on 6 November, is due to the announcement that Martin Schulz was the candidate-designate of the Party of European Socialists for the presidency of the European Commission. The third, on 12 November, can be partially explained by the launch of the European Green Party primary elections.
Some of the most retweeted posts are comments by Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) on the elections, a link to an endorsement for a top candidate for the Swedish Pirate Party by Anonymous (@AnonyOps) and links to a spoof Dutch Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) 2014 campaign poster by Esmee Zandvliet (@ERZandvliet).
However, one of the most discussed topics in the last two weeks has not been jobs or austerity, but animal rights, using the hashtags #vote4animals and #animalwelfare.
In fact, the most retweeted post by an individual (not an institutional account) is not by an MEP, commissioner or candidate, but by a British actor, Peter Egan (@PeterEgan6):
I believe it to be vital to have animal welfare at the heart of EU Elections #vote4animals
— Peter Egan (@PeterEgan6) November 8, 2013
In short, there is a conversation ongoing, and it is developing. We will keep watching.
You can view our Keyhole real-time tracker by clicking here.