Category Archives: Facebook

Social Media & Political engagement in Denmark (DECIDIS survey)

How do Danes engage with and through social media in public political debates? Are Danes becoming participatory content creators or is this a mere ideal of social media use? A preliminary analysis of the data collected in the DECIDIS survey “Social Media and Political Engagement” shows that social media and especially Facebook continues to be a central part of most Danes daily media habits. That is to say, social media does seem to engage some people in political debate, however, most of the Danes prefer using social media platforms to stay in contact with friends and family, and to receive news. In sum, the survey suggests the following three statements about social media use in Denmark:

  1. Social media is widely used in Denmark, however the average age as well as the frequency and type of use differ greatly.
  2. Danes use social media primarily to read (“stay in touch” or “be informed”) rather than produce original content or participate in political debates.
  3. Overall, young Danes are much more present on social media platforms. Espeically, the generation between 20 and 39 years is using social media for political debate.

Full report (PDF)

A more detailed look at the user numbers shows that Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Denmark: 72,4%  older than 15 have a Facebook account and 58% use Facebook at least once a day. The data further shows that Facebook has penetrated all age groups. Almost all young Danes use Facebook (91,2% in the age group 16-19) and still more than half of the over 70 year olds (61,5%) use Facebook. Generally, Facebook is a popular platform for news consumption and staying in contact with friends and family. A slightly different picture can be seen when looking at Instagram and Snapchat. Young Danes use these two services significantly more than older Danes. While 82,4% of the 16 to 19 year olds use Snapchat, less than 1% of the 70 year olds use the instant messenger. In contrast Twitter is generally much less popular. Fewer people have an account and, of those who do, very few people use it daily. In this sense Twitter is a more public platform and therefore mostly used for public relations.

Within the survey three different types of social media use were distinguished: reading, producing and participating. From a democratic perspective, participating (= interacting with the available content) is the most desirable from of engagement. However, according to the findings of the survey Danes use social media mostly to read and watch content. This can be illustrated with the iceberg metaphor: The bottom is formed by readers, the middle by producers creating content and the top the participants actively engaging in discussions.

With regards to political discussions, most people say they never discuss politics with people they do not know online. Few people say they do so often but a larger portion say they may do so though seldom. Unsurprisingly, most people say they never change their mind on a political issue after a discussion online. Some say they do this occasionally and only few say often or always. These finding suggest that social media is not simply generating echo chambers supporting conformation bias, but these platforms can also lead to new ideas and changed opinions of users. Especially younger Danes use Facebook to discuss politics online. 22,6% of the 20 to 29 year old Facebook users engage frequently in political debate.

In conclusion, it can be said that Danes produce content online, however not solely as content producers but as producers of data. Every click online leaves traces and this may be an increasing form of digital content production.

Contact DECIDIS survey: Luca Rossi, lucr@itu.dk
Foto credit: Morten Hjelholt

DECIDIS survey: Social Media & Political Engagement

Wednesday, March 9th
14.00 – 16.00, IT University Copenhagen
Room: AUD4

Next Wednesday DECIDIS researchers Gitte Stald and Luca Rossi will present first findings of the annual DECIDIS survey researching the Danish social media sphere. The representative survey provides insight into Danish media habits and preferences. The goal of the study is to contribute towards the on-going discussion how social media influences democractic practices. Contact: lucr@itu.dk

Everybody is welcome, no registration needed!

Political campaigning in 2020?

How will election campaigns evolve in relation to increasing social media use? This was the main question tackled by digital media researcher Axel Bruns, and DECIDIS researchers Luca RossiLisbeth Klastrup and Sander Schwartz during the seminar “Election 2020” tacking place at the IT University of Copenhagen.

Axel Bruns, known for his extensive research on Twitter, started off by talking about the policital landscape in Australia. The case of political campaigning in Australia provides an interesting context as it raises the questions whether the law enforcing compulsory voting at federal and state level encourages awareness of political issues and political actors or not. In this regard it can be stated that the main focus needs to be put on the swinging middle, which makes up 10-20% of Australian voters. Drawing on comprehensive research in relation to the hashtags #ausvotes, #qldvotes and #wavotes Bruns concluded that Twitter has evolved from a narrow “Twitterati” in-group tool to a mainstream campaign tool. The collected data further suggests that there is no relation between how often a politician is mentioned on Twitter and the final election outcome. Additionally, the dynamics of recent elections, which have largely favoured the conservative side, mean that the Australian conservative Coalition bloc, which has won a number of landslide elections, has yet to engage in the question how to use social media effectively. By contrast, social media are especially important for small Australian parties, which are active on social media but are systematically disadvantaged by the first-past-the-post system used in Australian elections.

The following presentation by Lisbeth Klastrup shed light on the Danish context. Danish politicians are active in the Facebook sphere since 2007 and have fully adopted the medium in 2011 when Facebook became a mainstream tool for politicial communication. By contrast, Twitter has only been used by early adopters in 2011 and is now slowly becoming a mainstream tool. Klastrup further talked about “defining moments” where the social sphere made an actual impact. In 2007, for example, invited Anders Fogh Rasmussen his Facebook “friends” for a run and therewith engaged with his online community offline. Another recent example is the refugee crises, where the hashtag #engangvarjegflygtning (rough translation: Once I was a refugee) has been used in relation to a social media campaign. In conclusion, Klastrup states that social media is no longer optional but needs to be strategically integrated in a meaningful way.

Sander Schwartz’ talk on “Facebook and the general Danish election” supplemented Klastrup’s talk and presented data gathered from 2011 to 2015. Schwartz started off by noting that Danish Facebook use is not declining, even through this is an often made claim. According to a recent study by Danish Radio, 62% of the Danish population use Facebook on a daily basis. This trend is confirmed when looking at how Danish politicians use social media: While in 2011 only 38 % of the candidates were active on Facebook pages, in 2015 62 % of the politicians used Facebook pages. Also, the use of Twitter accounts has risen considerably, from 15 % to 69 %. Overall, Schwartz noted a steep increase of citizen activity on Facebook. He believes that recent changes in the Facebook design have potentially led to this engagement.

Luca Rossi concluded the seminar by sharing insights from an annual data collection run by the DECIDIS research group, which will be published in the first quarter of 2016. The data shows that Facebook has fully penetrated the age group of 16 to 18 year olds Danes. This does not mean that all young Danes use Facebook intensively but that they have at least opened an account at some point. When contrasting Twitter and Facebook it can be stated that Facebook is still at the forefront, Twitter is mostly used by young Danes up to the age of 30.  A network analysis of different political hashtags used on Twitter shows that activity mostly happen around TV debates. Further, it can be stated that users typically re-tweet what they agree with, which leverages the problem of online echo chambers, in which competing ideas are typically underrepresented. In conclusion and as a summary of the seminar, it can be stated that Twitter is and will be an important medium gathering ad-hoc publics for live events as well as a (back)channel for politicians, journalists and so-called “political junkies”.

 

DECIDIS-Election blog #1: People follow people, not parties on Facebook?

By Sander Schwartz

This Wednesday the Danish prime minster announced the date of the Danish National Election (18th of June) and with this act she also launched the official election campaign.

As stated in our previous post, our research initiative DECIDIS-E will follow the digital media campaign closely by monitoring social media activity primarily on Facebook and Twitter while also keeping an eye on other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

In 2011, Facebook dominated the social media campaign in Denmark for the first time. Before 2011, especially blogs were popular amongst politicians to create an online presence, but since then this platform has largely been replaced by social network sites likely because Facebook and Twitter are simply easier to use, are short in form, potentially reach a larger audience and therefore offer great potential for (re)connecting with citizens.

Politicians have been struggling for a long time with declining party loyalty and support. The number of people who are members of a party is declining and the amount of swing voters is increasing. Politicians can no longer take support by citizens for granted and this creates an incentive for new and competitive political campaigns.

In 2011, more than 50% of the Danish population was on Facebook and since then the numbers have only increased (though there are signs that the younger audience is less active). While Twitter is slowly gaining more attention from professionals, Facebook is without a doubt still the most obvious place for politicians to engage with the citizens. According to the most recent study from DR (Danish Broadcasting Organization), only 4% of the Danish population is active daily on Twitter whereas 59% is active on Facebook every day.

The structure of Facebook encourages the individual presence of the politician instead of communication through and with their political party. By creating an individual profile, the politician can establish a more direct connection with each citizen, which is not unlike the connection between private profiles of friends and family. Through the Facebook page each candidate can communicate a more personal story which shows a human side of the politician. The platform creates a potential to tell a new story which contrasts how the traditional media often presents politicians as calculated and aggressive adversaries fighting each other for power. Of course during the election campaign the communication becomes highly strategic, which also means more focused political content and less stories outside the campaign narrative.

Here is an overview of how many citizens who follow each party in comparison to the number of citizens who follow the party’s top candidate. There is a striking difference between the number of followers of parties and the number of followers of the top candidate in the parties of Ø, A and V. The reason for this is most likely that all the other main candidates measured are new in their position as top candidate for their party. This is a serious challenge because the new contestants will have to build their audience throughout the campaign. But following the logic of personalization on Facebook, by the end of the campaign, it is likely that the number of followers of the candidates will have increased significantly more than the number of party followers

Facebook followers May 27th 2015
red = top candidate page or profile – blue = party page
Follower graph
Click image for larger version

What kind of picture gets more than 6 million likes on Facebook?

If someone told me that a picture on Facebook had gotte more than 6 million likes – from more than 20 countries and from 5 continents – I might wonder what that picture showed. Great political scandals, war zone revelations, great nature catastrophes. But that’s not the case.

Lisbeth Klastrup, researcher at ITU, is participating in the 15th conference by the Association of Internet Researchers (http://ir15.aoir.org/). Her contribution is the presentation on Heartwarming Moments, which includes research on popular memes from Facebook. And the above-mentioned picture? That’s part of her sample.

The picture (or really, it’s two pictures) show the wedding picture of a young couple and then next to it, a picture of the same couple after 80 years of marriage. You can see the picture here.

The interesting part of this is what we can make of this? These kinds of memes, Lisbeth Klastrup has named these kinds of viral elements discrete mundane memes. And these memes might seem banal at first, but then what is it that makes millions of people like them, and hundreds of thousands to comment on them and share them? These are some of the questions that Lisbeth Klastrup asks in Heartwarming Moment at the conference.

And if you are up for a darker side of internet research, researcher at ITU Stine Gotved will also participate in the conference with her research on the digital aspect of Death – read more about it here.