I was listening to the radio this morning and there was much discussion around the visit to the United Kingdom of Pope Benedict XVI.
One of the topics discussed was the positive impact of the visit for Scotland’s tourism industry and the measures being used to determine impact. These appeared to focus on traditional approaches, including mentions in the mainstream media and the experiences of 100 participants at the event. This research is usually extrapolated into a measure of wider economic impact.
I doubt whether the analysis includes a Social Media perspective and having noticed strong trends on Twitter before and during the visit I knew it would be worth understanding and incorporating the “buzz” on Social Media into any wider view of impact.
Using SocialRadar and Radian6 we analysed at a high level the activity on Social Media channels around the state visit to the United Kingdom of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday 16th September. We have used the key search terms “Papal Visit” and “Pope Benedict” to generate our River of News.
The first thing we notice is the peak in activity on the day of the visit (Thursday 16th).
Figure 1: Volume of Mentions
In terms of platforms and channels, it would appear that Twitter (Micromedia) is important.
Figure 2: Trends on Social Media Platforms
Mainstream News may have fewer posts but on the day it generated the most engagement.
Figure 3: Comments by Platform
More than 28,000 comments were made, far outweighing the next most important medium in generating comments – Blogs.
Socialradar pegged sentiment as largely positive.
Figure 4: Sentiment from SocialRadar
SocialRadar ranks the broad sentiment of the posts around the visit as 60% positive and 40% negative. Radian6 views positive to negative sentiment as 40 – 60, providing the opposite result (but with far more neutral sentiment).
Figure 5: Sentiment from Radian6
There is little doubt that the visit has attracted both positive and negative sentiment. SocialRadar provides an indication of some of the keywords used, including: “best” and “enjoy” from a positive perspective and more negatively, words like “hostile” and “bad”.
Figure 6: Word and Category Analysis
Figure 7: Content Tag Clouds
In a more general sense, we can see mentioned the meeting with the Queen, the visit to Bellahouston Park and both Edinburgh and Glasgow are mentioned in almost equal measure. There is far greater mention of England than Scotland, a point for those measuring the impact from a Scottish Tourism perspective. Other less positive aspects are also mentioned, including “abuse” and “scandal”.
What does it all mean?
I think there are a few clear findings from this analysis, indicated below:
1. It would be wise to include Social Media Monitoring in any measure of impact, the numbers of individuals posting and commenting highlights an “active quartile” and alludes to a far greater population exposed to messages around the visit on Social Media – positive and negative.
2. It is difficult to determine precisely the level of positive versus negative sentiment and it would appear that both exist, if not in equal measure depending on which software tool you believe.
3. Traditional Media has had a strong role to play in engagement around this event, with lots of comments on Mainstream News posts. However, new channels like Twitter and Blogs are increasingly important.
4. It is critical to look deeper at what is being talked about and the sentiment expressed. Understanding the proportion that are engaging in positive and negative posts gives a more accurate reflection of the ‘real’ media impact surrounding the visit.
5. Despite the talk of a secular society, the decreasing importance of religion and some of the scandals that shadow religious institutions there is substantial positive sentiment around this visit. This suggests that there are very many advocates and influencers that are also active on Social Media.
6. Finally, social media offers opportunities for organisations of every kind, including religious establishments to engage and energise their followers. I believe we will see more use made of these channels in future.
As always your comments are welcome.