Twitter, Dialogue and #elxn41
Friday, May 13th, 2011

Here at Ascentum, we’re really interested in how people are using social media to connect, get involved, and engage in dialogue on issues that matter to them.

That’s why I volunteered to be part of a small team led by digital guru Mark Blevis (@MarkBlevis) that looked at how people were using Twitter on the night of Canada’s 2011 federal election.

In space provided by The Canadian Press (thanks @CdnPress_Ott!) we spent a fun evening together following the posts, unfolding events and the stream on Twitter related to the election.

We used a Canadian social media monitoring tool called Sysomos to find and follow the traffic.  Using a powerful and customized search, we were able to pinpoint and track posts that mentioned any one of over 100 keywords or criteria.  For a detailed analysis of results, I’d recommend visiting Mark’s ongoing research at

Lots of traffic, but less dialogue

That night, I was excited to see the high level of interest, buzz and traffic about the election on Twitter.  At the end of the night, we measured a total of 90,150 election tweets, from 45,075 users.  There was a community of Twitter users across Canada, and beyond, sharing the same real-time experience of democracy in action.  There was genuine engagement in the process.

What I didn’t see as much of, however, was real dialogue.  By dialogue, I don’t just mean people talking to each other.  As practitioners have observed, dialogue is to “honestly expressing perspectives, clarifying viewpoints, and developing solutions. The goal of dialogue is to deepen understanding and judgment, and to think about ways to make a difference on an issue.”

Understandably, on election night, people were more focused on news and results than policy issues.  However, even during the campaign, though, the twitter traffic on #elxn41 seemed to be more partisan than “transpartisan” – people looking beyond party politics to engage in dialogue on bigger issues of public concern.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the Twitter community continues to evolve in the future and whether members can shift the interaction to facilitate more dialogic exchange.

Mark, Stephanie and Nygel: same place next time?

– Ellis Westwood –

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  1. Steve Parle says:

    Great coverage of the election!

  2. […] blog I’m following, Ascentum, posted about being part of a team that was put together to analyze how people were using Twitter on the night of the election. They tracked tweets containing over 100 keywords or criteria, measuring a grand total of 90,105 […]