Archive for March 12th, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate

posted by Daniel George

Image source: DeviantArt

Those of you who remember the details of the AV referendum campaigns will surely remember the striking difference between the mass support for the motion on Twitter and the reality of public opinion as evidenced in the poll itself.

It seems that such differences between the opinions of Twitter and the public as a whole are a rather common occurrence. As such, the Pew Research Center last week released the results of a year-long study comparing Twitter’s reaction to events with that of the general public as measured by surveys.

It’s interesting to note that the stereotype that Twitter is a hotbed of liberal opinion doesn’t always hold true. In fact, sometimes, the platform can even be more conservative than the public as a whole.

Rather than seeing the platform in purely political terms, it appears smarter to note one of the fundamental rules of the internet: people will use the platform to vent their frustrations. As such, a good rule of thumb that came out of the research is that Twitter opinion is generally more negative than public opinion. Or, as 3LW so aptly put it in their seminal turn-of-the-century ‘classic’, “haters gonna hate”.

Whilst a US-based study, this is still a pretty instructive reminder of the obvious: that the demographics (and – in my case, at least – self-selecting levels of narcissism) of those tweeting mean that it shouldn’t be taken as the be-all-and-end-all of public opinion. This has obvious implications in terms of campaign research and tracking, where we need to dig a little deeper to discover how people really feel about our brands. However, it’s also useful to bear in mind when a crisis hits and you’re calming down a client who’s feeling a bit vulnerable after a deluge of abuse.