The election collection: tracking trends on Twitter

By CSIRO

26 March 2015

A wordcloud from Vizie, which tracks, integrates and visualises content across social media in real time.

Vizie tracks, integrates and visualises content across social media in real time.

With over 500 million tweets flying around the Twitterverse every day – ranging from the excruciatingly banal to the discerning and insightful – this micro-blogging platform can provide an immediate and detailed insight into public sentiment and community conversations.

It is this vast amount of shared information that makes Twitter a treasure trove of data for future historians. However due to the instant and fleeting nature of the online world, it’s important to record these conversations as they happen so that our history is preserved.

That’s why we’re working with the State Library of NSW to help capture digital conversations on hot topics relevant to the state. And at the moment, there’s nothing on people’s minds (and keyboards) more than the upcoming state election.

As NSW residents prepare to head to the polls this weekend, the library is collating and archiving publicly available Twitter activity as part of its efforts to capture and document events of historical significance. They are collecting public conversations about the economy, big and small personalities, fundraising, the media and a broad range of local and global issues.

This is all possible thanks to our social media monitoring software called Vizie.

Vizie is a web based platform that tracks, integrates and visualises content across social media in real time. It also allows users to collect swathes of tweets based on a particular hashtag or topic so that they are preserved for the future.

For the NSW election, the library is capturing the tweets of the majority of candidates running – that’s over 200 Twitter handles. It’s also collecting discussions about parties and interest groups and tracking topical issue such as #csg and #polesandwires.

So far almost 400,000 election-based tweets have been captured and preserved.

This digital record will add to the library’s extensive election archive which dates back to the 1840s and 50s. This is full of artefacts such as newspaper clippings, electoral flyers and how to vote cards which show how political campaigns, the act of running for candidacy and voting has changed over the decades.

You can keep up to date on the library’s efforts by following the conversation at #electcollectnsw. Read more about our suite of social media tools on our website.