Understanding influence in social media (Part 2)

Published January 3, 2020, 12:00 AM

by Rj Nieto


Social media-based political blogs in recent years played a considerable role in shaping the outcome of the last two national elections. But which ones have the most impact?

(This is the second of a two-part series whose first installment was on 21 December 2019.)

I listed six ways to gauge influence impact — follower count, engagement, follower intersection, engagement per post, external amplification, and content direction. I discussed the first three in Part 1, and I’ll discuss the rest here, starting with the fourth.

Fourth is external amplification.

Social media personalities exert more impact (and gain more followers) than they normally would when they get exposure from traditional media like television, radio, and print. After all, Filipinos are still in the middle of a digital transition, so most of the country still relies on tri-media for content, albeit less so than a decade ago.

I benefitted from tri-media exposure. Videos of my appearance as a resource person in an October, 2017, senate hearing heavily boosted my follower count. I had 600,000 followers right before the hearing, and I gained 300,000 more in the four days immediately succeeding it.

And it also helps if a blog receives funding for sponsored posts, such as when Kris Aquino funded Pinoy Ako Blog, purportedly to “protect” her brother, former President Noynoy Aquino.

The public, however, generally frowns upon such practices when political blogs, such as Jover Laurio’s Pinoy Ako Blog, are involved.

Fifth is engagement per post.

High follower count is good, high engagement is good, but high engagement per post is even better. Engagement per post gauges the impact of your posts. If social media was a boxing match, posts were your punches, and engagement was the total damage you inflicted on your opponent, then engagement per post (EPP) is the average strength of your punches.

For example, Facebook Insights data taken at 8 am on 04 January 2019 show that over the past week, Mocha Uson Blog had 88 posts with 3.9 million engagement, translating to 44,000 EPP. Meanwhile, ThinkingPinoy over the same period had 50 posts with 2.1 million engagement, translating to 40,000 EPP.

That is, Mocha Uson’s punches are about 10% stronger than ThinkingPinoy’s. That’s quite surprising, as Uson currently has 5.8 million followers or over four times that of ThinkingPinoy’s 1.4 million.

With that said, let me introduce a sub-metric “engagement per post per follower (EPF).” If EPP shows the impact of each post, EPF describes how involved a blogger’s followers are, i.e., how invested they are on the social media personality they’re following.

From the same insights data, Mocha Uson has an EPF of 0.0076, Thinking Pinoy 0.0286, or 3.76 times that of Mocha Uson. Here are the EPP and EPF figures of several other Facebook pages today:

Mindavote (826.4 k engagement, 26 posts, 565.6 followers): EPP 31,800 and EPF 0.0562; For the Motherland – Sass Rogando Sasot (2.1 m engagement, 82 posts, 688.2 k followers): EPP 25,600 and EPF 0.0372; Erwin Tulfo (1.4 m engagement, eight posts, 1.9 million followers): EPP 175,000, EPF 0.0921.

The figures show that among the bigger political pages, Erwin Tulfo has the most involved followers, which can partly explain his ACT-CIS Party-list’s overwhelming win in May, 2019. While follower count is nice, the more important question is how many of those followers will translate into votes. Tulfo is the winner in this regard.

Sixth is Content Direction.

Content Direction refers to the general thrust of a personality’s content, such as whether it panders to the audience, thereby encouraging more followers, or whether it challenges its followers to reverse their leaning on issues.

Some blogs gain lots of followers because they reinforce what many people already believe. Such blogs are useful in cementing support for the respective political personalities they chose to back up. The fact, however, is that their followers followed them precisely because of this, so they’ll find it difficult to criticize their candidates and retain their followers at the same time.

In short, both blogs appeal to stalwarts of political parties, i.e., they preach to the choir. If I were a politician, it is in my interest to use bloggers like these to maintain support.

Meanwhile, there are political bloggers who, despite generally leaning to a particular group, are still known to criticize the group they supposedly support. While they generally have lower follower counts because they don’t pander to their audience, they are far more appealing to swing voters or those who vote across party lines.

The presidential election season is fast approaching, and I predict that political blogging will be at the forefront once again. To those who aspire to make their voices heard, especially those who plan to start their own political blog, I hope you will find these metrics useful in planning content and delivery.

It doesn’t matter to me what side you’re on, as free speech is the right of every Filipino, regardless of political color.

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