The power users and engagement-boosting topics on Shujaaz hero DJ B’s Facebook page
As Well Told Story continues its Big Data explorations with Africa’s Voices Foundation, we are digging further into the analysis of Shujaaz fan online conversations. Our analysis demonstrates that online conversations tend to be clustered around particular people (power users) and specific topics (engagement-boosters). Understanding the nuances of both can help Shujaaz guide and grow online conversations in a purposeful way, which is central to the Shujaaz Theory of Change.
In 2017, AVF and WTS have undertaken a study to analyse governance-related conversations of DJ B’s Facebook page. The results show a similar pattern: a small number of “power users” actively shape the conversations while a larger group of fans “react” or silently observe. The engaged fans actively comment and react and, importantly, they are also in a position to connect less active users who might not be otherwise involved in the conversations. The graphs below show the power-law distribution of people who comment and react on DJ B’s Facebook page over a four-month period (June-August 2017).
Given this typical pattern of social media behaviour found on DJ B’s page, we were interested in exploring further how these social media dynamics are refracted in governance-related conversations: what kinds of governance sub-topics were most popular, especially around the Kenyan elections; how these topics interacted with each other; and how fans engaged with different issues around the elections.
So, which governance topics are Shujaaz fans speaking about most?
In order to better understand this, we used computational methods to categorise governance-related comments and posts into 17 sub-topics:
2. Physical infrastructure (transport, roads, markets)
3. Education (schools, bursaries)
4. Utilities (water, sewage, electricity, sanitation, etc.)
5. Healthcare (facilities, procedures, staff quality, etc.)
6. Security (crime/violence)
7. Police (abuse & positive experiences)
8. Devolution (new county system)
9. Corruption (nepotism, exclusion of youth)
10. Elections (politics, tribalism)
11. Ji-Activate (http://jiactivate.org)
12. High cost of living (hunger & poverty)
13. LigiSafi (Shujaaz campaign encouraging participation in gov’ processes)
14. Drug abuse (laziness, apathy)
15. Youth Fund (youth engagement)
16. Civil Rights (democratic freedoms)
17. Governance in general
The graphs below breakdown the level of engagement according to the different sub-topics across a 4-month period (June-September 2017) around the elections (election-related themes coloUred in red in the bottom graph) as well as a gender breakdown of sub-topics.
– For DJ B fans, elections are not the most important topic; in fact, it becomes pronounced in governance conversations only in the weeks immediately before & after the election day;
– Civil rights, corruption and police abuse are the “hot” issues sparking intense conversations with multiple spikes;
– Cost of living is the topic with steady interest among youth; conversations around this topic do not have massive spikes but they also never completely fade;
– While there are slightly more male than female fans on DJ B’s Facebook page, both are most interested in the top 2 topics of civil rights and cost of living.
Now, who are the engaged ‘power’ fans?
Our analysis showed that there are broadly 3 different fan types with different behavioural profiles:
POWER-FANS: The fans make up the top 1% of activity on DJ B’s page. They both actively comment and actively react (like, share) on multiple conversation across multiple different topics and sub-topics.
POWER-REACTORS: These fans are still actively involved across topics and sub-topics, but they only react to the conversations & rarely, if at all, participate in the conversations. While such quasi-active engagement is important, it is more difficult to understand the evolution of such fans – either normative or behavioural – and as such, it is more difficult to design a tailored engagement/intervention for them.
TOPIC-FOCUSED POWER FANS: The third group of fans can actively comment and/or react but only on posts on a particular topic or sub-topic. These fans have niche-specific interests and their conversations/reactions are limited to a small number issues immediately responding to their interests.
Aside from particular “power” topics and “power” fans, we discovered that some sub-topics create more broad engagement than others and serve as kinds of “connectors” that help bridge different types of fans across two or more issues of interest. The ‘heatmap’ below shows the relationship between different sub-topics found in the posts and in the comments.
While the elections did bring new fans to the DJ B’s Facebook page and sparked a lot of interest, other topics – including the “Ji-Activate” campaign (linked to unemployment, corruption, youth, cost of living) and “infrastructure” (linked to youth, cost of living, governance and civil rights) created significantly more, and more dynamic, across-topic conversations.
So, what is the practical value of these findings?
There are a number of insights we can draw about increasing social media engagement on the DJ B Facebook page:
1. By engaging more actively with the power-users, Shujaaz can increase the overall number of fans engaging on the page. Because of their visibility, power-users act as “ambassadors” bridging people and topics together, engaging more siloed fans into broader conversations.
2. Engaging more with power-reactors can inspire them to become more active “talkers” (commenters). This can help enrich the scope of the conversations by bringing more perspectives into the debates.
3. Given the significant overlap between multiple sub-topics found in the conversations, curating discussions that cut across many issues can inspire broader engagement with fans who would otherwise remain confined to issue-specific conversations. This will help create more realistic, wholesome conversations relevant to DJ B’s fans lives.
Overall, even if social media behaviour can often be characterised by a small number of power-fans and mid-level users and a long-tail of passive followers, this is not the end of the story. There are many creative ways to inspire “mid-level” users to rise up and become “power users”; there are also ways of “waking up” some passive followers. Our continuous rigorous research and evidence-based strategy are already helping us nudge the communicative dynamics on DJB’s social media and to fine-tune our activities to inspire more people to become an active part of the important debate.
Dr. Matti Pohjonen, Africa’s Voices Foundation
Dr. Anastasia Mirzoyants-McKnight, Well Told Story