Why social media is full of political Twitter screenshots

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson tweetsImage copyright

It might seem like a clunky way to get a message out. But as the UK gears up for an election on 12 December, social media is being flooded with screenshots of political tweets.

Twitter has fewer users than other big social media sites, but it frequently kick-starts conversations elsewhere when pictures of tweets get shared on Facebook, WhatsApp – or even singer Lily Allen’s Instagram account.

And with conversations jumping between platforms, it’s increasingly hard to measure who is winning the online race.

Twitter battle

Matt Walsh of Cardiff University compiled a list of the most-shared tweets of the election campaign as of last week – and it was dominated by Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader accounted for the seven most liked tweets and 13 of the top 14.

Evidence suggests that people who talk politics on Twitter are more likely to support Labour than the population at large, while Facebook users are thought to be more evenly distributed along the political spectrum.

One tweet by Mr Corbyn about economic equality was retweeted more than 20,000 times, and liked more than 85,000 times:

Screenshot stealth

But those numbers don’t give you the full scale of the reach of this message. When Twitter screenshots are posted to other, bigger social media sites, they are seen by far more people.

As well as being more inclined towards Labour, evidence suggests UK Twitter users are unrepresentative of the population in another way – they are far more politically engaged.

Voters who don’t follow every twist and turn in Westminster are far more likely to be using Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram. That means that a viral tweet is unlikely to reach these people directly, but it may come onto their screens in a different way.

The best performing Facebook post by a leader in the first week of the campaign was on Mr Corbyn’s page – it was simply a screenshot of a tweet:

The Conservatives are sharing screenshots of their leader’s tweets too:

Parties also share opponents’ tweets. This video posted by the official Conservative page includes a Jeremy Corbyn tweet about Labour’s Brexit policy, in order to criticise it as “dither and…


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