04 Aug 2016

A few months ago, when I looked at my personal social media feeds, I would be looking for amusement: videos of people falling over, photos of cute puppies in tutus, pictures of my friends’ dinners.

When Facebook became a soapbox

Since the EU Referendum came to the forefront, my social media timelines are more a forum of political debate and repository for the latest news than somewhere to find the most recent recipe for a quinoa and pomegranate salad.

Now, if I need to know the latest happenings in the UK political landscape, and my goodness there are a lot of them, I don’t need to look at the BBC, I can just check Facebook.

From the pre-vote stage, throughout polling day on June 23, to the ongoing changing landscape, we’ve all become commentators and ring-side observers of what has been referenced as the most turbulent period in Britain’s political history since the Second World War.

Demonstrating the breadth of social media interest, an unlikely star during this period has been Liverpool University’s professor of European Constitutional Law, Michael Dougan. His 25-minute lecture explaining the mechanisms of the institutions of the European Union, describing the arguments of the Leave campaign as ““dishonesty on an industrial scale” generated a staggering 6.8 million views, 198k+ shares, 56k+ Facebook reactions and 12k+ comments. That could compete with the Kardashians.

Social media engagement continued, if not escalated, in the wake of the results of the vote. Disbelief and disquiet prevailed, as an online petition calling for a second referendum garnered over 2 million signatures in a short space of time. Donald Trump waded in, albeit inaccurately, tweeting “Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!” which saw over 18,000 retweets and 46,000 likes.

We have been vocal in our opinions, sharing mainstream articles as soon as they are published, seeking validation from our follower networks that they are of the same opinion – and being surprised when we find out one of our contacts voted “for the other side”…

Social media has also become an aggregator of traditional news sources. Titles have found a far wider reach than normal, and users have not had to search to read these pieces as contacts have been sharing this vast amount of articles online. Users have focused on those pieces which have appealed to their leanings, which has been easy given the sheer amount of information published, written from every angle.

And the debate rages on. We are still sharing, still commenting, still speculating what future lies ahead. Social media is facilitating this debate for us. It’s allowing us to challenge politicians and question facts, and it’s giving us a platform and community to have our voices heard.

At Social360, we were tasked with reporting every few hours on the EU Referendum for our clients. We monitored comment, the sharing of mainstream media and sought out the views and observations of leading influential journalists and commentators. In periods of large-scale social media activity, we can mobilise quickly to report these events directly to our clients.

As events continue to unfold, we can continue to provide this timely and comprehensive reporting. We can look at political or financial angles, we can examine the effects of the EU Referendum on various business sectors. We can even see if there are any cute pictures of puppies in tutus still in circulation.

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Helen Jones

Editorial and Operations Manager

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