Issue 3-2023-200dpi

2 June 2014 Edition

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Social media – Sinn Féin and An Phoblacht – Number 1 online

Elections 2014 Special

On YouTube, the Sinn Féin/An Phoblacht channel had more than twice as many views as all the other parties put together, clocking up more than 2.29million views

ON Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Sinn Féin continued to out-perform every other party across the island of Ireland by multiples from March. At the height of the election counts, “Sinn Féin” and “An Phoblacht” were trending in Ireland.

On YouTube alone, the Sinn Féin/An Phoblacht  channel had more than twice as many views as all the other parties put together, clocking up more than 2.29million views. In the final weeks of the campaign alone, those viewing figures grew by over quarter of a million.

A similar surge was witnessed on Facebook. In the final four weeks of the campaign, those who ‘liked’ the party averaged roughly 2,500 each week.  This compared to a Fine Gael increase on Facebook in the final week of less than 200 and Fianna Fáil just over 100.

In March, Sinn Féin celebrated passing the 20,000 Facebook ‘likes’ milestone; on the day of the election, that figure rose to 36,000. What had taken a couple of years to build had almost doubled overnight.

On Twitter, the number of followers also grew substantially but not with quite the same level of enthusiasm shown on the other two platforms. It also needs to be recognised that people following you on Twitter are not necessarily supporters of your position. We have been known to attract the odd troll or two.

Added to all this were over 4,000 people who signed up to become online activists for the party during the election campaign. These were people who gave a specific undertaking to campaign for the party through social media during the election.

But it’s the people behind the fans, followers and subscribers that give social media platforms their real power in elections. It’s the friends or fans who will undertake to campaign online on your behalf and sell your message to others that are worth far more than any leaflet through a letterbox or a poster on a pole.

And it is all quantifiable.

Tonnes of data is generated through each interaction, giving us quick and useful insights in to what might or might not be working during the course of a campaign. You quickly see what sort of message resonates with people.

During the course of the campaign we undertook an initiative using a social media tool called Thunderclap. People sign up to relay a message on your behalf at the same time on the same day, hundreds of tweets and posts being generated about your cause to a potential audience of tens of thousands of their friends. The Labour Party in Britain tried it last November and it was deemed a great success when they got 868 people to sign up to the initiative; Sinn Féin’s message “I’m Voting Sinn Féin” was signed up to by almost 1,100 people – giving us an audience reach of almost 600,000 individuals.

We were able to see how successful it was almost instantly when the hashtag #ImVotingSinnFein was trending throughout Ireland for several hours on the day the message was launched.

A Thunderclap as Gaeilge in the Six Counties was also a great success.

Online campaigning and communicating with the public is also a great leveller. No longer are we at the editorial whim of some malcontent in Independent News & Media with an anti-republican agenda to distort the facts or misrepresent us. Now we are in a significant position to get our uncensored message through Sinn Féin’s and An Phoblacht’s social media and websites directly to people and to challenge head-on the spin and nonsense published elsewhere.

Sinn Féin’s website in the later stages of the campaign was registering almost 10,000 unique visits a day – huge increases on normal daily figures. That almost 50% of these people were accessing Sinn Féin’s website on mobile devices illustrates how rapidly things are changing. Analysis of the traffic over the same period of time in the run-in to the 2009 elections show that only 5% were accessing the site on mobile devices. 

It was these figures that played a significant role in our decision late last year to completely revamp the Sinn Féin site so that it was fully mobile compatible. This is where increasing numbers of people are accessing their daily newsfeeds.

Sinn Féin will continue to concentrate its efforts in making sure that it remains in Number 1 position in terms of Irish political parties using the web and social media to advance our cause and policies.

Michael Nolan is head of Sinn Féin Social Media


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1