Content Discovery Smackdown: Hootsuite vs. Buffer vs. KloutContent Marketing Minds: Ingredients of the Tastiest Content [Nutrition Label]From the Corn Field to the Digital Era: Content Marketing Starts with TrustContent Marketing: Is 2014 Really Shaping Up to Be the Year of Video?
Your Customers Aren’t Listening! How to Create Consumer Dialogue that Converts4 Tools for Nonprofit Social Listening and Reputation ManagementThe Promising Role of Social Listening in Treating Health IssuesThe Importance of Social Listening for Brands
- Public Relations
Facebook Testing a Way for Users to Buy Products on the Platform7 Website Tips to Attract More Shoppers to Your PagesHow eCommerce, Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Redefine the Retail ExperienceSearch Query Analysis to Increase eCommerce Website Conversions
- Content Marketing
Technology & Data
Social Startups: Bizible Connects All the Dots from Marketing Contributions to RevenueCreating the Perfect Profile for Your Social Media Marketing EffortUsing GPS and Localization for Social AnalyticsAnalytics and Prospect Intel: Discovering Your Ideal Prospect
- Big Data
- Tech & Innovation
3 Security Risks You’re Taking Every Day While Using Social MediaShould the President Have the Power to "Pull the Plug" on the Internet?How Safe is Your WordPress Website From Hackers and Other Malicious Attacks?
- Software & Tools
- Small Business
- Social Organization
Celebrating the Grand Re-Launch of Social Media Today! SBH Podcast Episode 8Why Should You Care If Your Employees Are Thought Leaders?Beyond Engagement: The Art of Managing Social-Media Risk in Employee Advocacy
Why All-in-One Social Media Management Systems Don't Cut It for Social Customer ServiceWhat You Should Know About Customer, Digital, and Contextual ExperienceSurging into Q3: How to Make It Better Than Q2Is How You Serve Your Customers Costing You Business?
Join us September 15th in Atlanta for The Employee Advocacy Summit and learn how to unleash the power of your employees.
Post your event here and we'll share it with our community. If one of our members is featured, we'll promote as well on their profile.
- Marketplace & Webinars
The SMT Marketplace
Your resource for exclusive content and insights from Social Media Today, and opportunities to reach our community of professionals.
The Social Business Book Club brings you books, discussions, and insights from today's to business thought leaders.
Join interactive talks and and panel discussions with leading thinkers and practitioners on social media and networked business, or browse the catalogue of recorded sessions - all completely free.
Reach Social Media Today's community of marketing and communications professionals in an editor-approved context with a native advertising package.
Could A Social Media Poll Ever Prove To Be Dangerous?
Posted on May 2nd 2012
With the race for the Presidency fast approaching, I have no doubt we’ll see even more agencies releasing ‘opinion polls’ derived from social media data.
With more people using social media, there is, as Tweetminster has shown in the UK at the nationwide level, a growing validity for looking at using this data in a predictive capacity.
However, I don’t believe social media analysis is in a position to replace more traditional political polling and, unless we quickly see a far more politically representative sample of the wider population using social networks (and also willing to share their political opinions), I’m unconvinced it will be anytime soon.
However, with an increased willingness amongst the media to use this data, I think it’s important to understand what effect this could be having on elections.
Building on German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s “spiral of silence” theory, in 1984, Lang and Lang suggested that poll results can set the agenda by reinforcing majority opinion.
Four years earlier, Public Opinion Quarterly made the link to agenda-setting explicit by stating that “over time, people’s political beliefs and behavior have been affected by evidence of polls presented by the press—a special case of the larger claim of the mass media’s agenda-setting functions”.
If the reporting of social media polls can have an impact on voting (either through a bandwagon or ‘backing the underdog’ effect), I think we need to better educate the media as to how we’re arriving at these results and be transparent about some of the current limitations of using this data.
As we’ve seen in recent predictions in the GOP Primaries, fringe candidates, such as Ron Paul, can be vastly overrepresented in social media conversations and their predicted vote consequently becomes overinflated.
As individuals begin to game tools like Klout and exert influence by merely creating an illusion of influence, there’s a very real danger that extremist parties will see social media as an opportunity to manipulate these newer forms of polling and attract more media coverage.
In 2006, the misreporting of a JRRT report in the UK, which stated that a quarter of Londoners would consider voting for the right-wing British National Party (wrongly, and widely, reported as revealing that 25% of the UK population were considering voting for them), was followed by a YouGov poll placing the party on 7%.
Despite the fact Populus had the party at less than 1%, the YouGov poll resulted in another bout of media coverage for the British National Party reinforcing their poll boost.
The coverage in the press helped legitimise the false idea that the British National Party was an ordinary political party and they went on to increase their votes in local elections from just 3,000 in 2000 to 230,000 in 2006.
It’s not too much of stretch to envisage a situation in which a rushed, ‘real-time’ poll, based merely on a volume of mentions for a candidate or party within social media, could be manipulated by a small number of individuals (or even misrepresented by researchers not taking the time to understand why they’re being mentioned in the first place) and lead to an extremist political party being reported as leading in the polls.
If it’s for no reason other than this, I think it’s important that we all start being more open about, not only the limitations of social media polls but, in particular, the methodology behind how we’ve arrived at the results.
Using a social media monitoring tool to quickly grab a share of mentions without understanding what’s being said is not a poll and it’s not necessarily without consequences either.