Social listening case study: the Australian federal election in hashtags

Jul 19, 2016 · 3 min read

It’s no secret that Aussies love a good social campaign. The 2014 siege of Sydney’s Lindt cafe by a lone gunman triggered what much of the Australian public deemed a kneejerk reaction from the country’s news media.

However, for all the controversy Man Haron Monis’ actions ignited around Islamism, Islamophobia and multiculturalism in Australia, they also unified Sydneysiders in a show of solidarity — #illridewithyou

The down under ‘larrikin’ stereotype has arguably reigned supreme for years, with fun-loving, fluffy social shares perpetuating the take-it-easy, no worries persona of the country and its inhabitants.

Something that Australians are less commonly associated with — depending on who you talk to — is engagement in politics. Writing for Independent Australia in 2014, John Ray argued that most citizens of the self-proclaimed ‘Lucky Country’ had “no idea about politics”, failing to realise the significance of issues such as accommodating the overflow of asylum seekers and the effects of climate change. The national broadcaster, The ABC, reported on poll data reflecting that “40 per cent [of Australians] no longer believed democracy is the best form of government.”

Perhaps it’s little wonder, then, that @govAU, Twitter Australia’s “Gov & Elections team” proudly highlighted over 120 million users viewing #ausvotes focused tweets on July 2, 2016 — the day of the Federal Election.

Two hashtags have dominated Australia’s social shares, particularly on Twitter; #ausvotes and #auspol. As the country awaited the outcome, with the fate of the two major parties hanging on a handful of seats, a third emerged — #auswaits.

According to our media monitoring feature Compare, all three hashtags hit a peak of 2650 social media mentions on July 5 — two days after election day.

The key issue for social media users centred on whether Australia would be left with a hung parliament, which in the nation’s parliamentary system leads to no party or allegiance of parties having an absolute majority in the legislature. In other words, no majority government.

Monitoring #ausvotes, #auspol and #auswaits revealed a flurry of posts and retweets predicting that the incumbent Coalition would win “between 75 and 77 seats” — potentially reaching the 76 seats required to achieve the majority by the skin of their teeth. #auspol has traditionally been more serious than its sometimes cheeky sibling #ausvotes, usually added to user posts on count changes, opinions on key election issues and quotes from political commentators. As the waiting game dragged on, however, #auspol started showing up in the company of memes and frustrated emoji combinations.

Sentiment analysis indicated a negative trend in sentiment expressed through the hashtags. #ausvotes posts were weighted at 62% negative/38% positive, with #auspol at 64% negative and 36% positive. #auswaits reflected its tongue-in-cheek flavour with only 51% negative sentiment to 49% positivity.

All in all, the social media tide would appear to be turning against any apathy perceived in the Aussie voting public. It’s moments like these that make the art of social listening more than pop culture and conversation — it shows us how we shape the world.

Amy Ma — Content Manager Observify

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