How Did Audiences Interact With Brexit Coverage On Social?

June 27, 2016

Written by NewsWhip

We take a look at how social audiences interacted with coverage of Brexit on June 23rd and June 24th.

On Thursday 23rd June, the UK voted in a historic referendum to decide whether the country would leave the European Union. The “Brexit” referendum understandably dominated headlines both on the day itself and in subsequent days.
Considering June 24th also saw the resignation of UK Prime Minister David Cameron following the result, an indication from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that another Scottish independence referendum was likely, and Bernie Sanders saying he’d vote for Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, this is no mean feat.
Using NewsWhip Spike and NewsWhip Analytics, we took a closer look at how audiences responded to the historic result on social. For a 36-hour period from midnight on June 23rd to 12 noon on June 24th (both times GMT), here’s how the data stacks up:
Total stats - social engagement around Brexit-related content June 23rd and June 24th
Publishers saw 5.9 million Facebook interactions around Brexit-related content in this 36-hour period. The same time frame saw 1.1 million tweets and 132,630 LinkedIn shares of the same content.
This goes some way in illustrating the impact the referendum had on news and media – in our recent look at politics publishers on social, the top-placed publisher earned just over 9 million engagements on all its politics content in a month. Brexit earned more than half that engagement in just 36 hours, demonstrating a phenomenal level of interest among audiences and one which befits the unprecedented nature of the vote.
Looking more closely, NewsWhip Analytics lets us trace the development of this activity over time. The following data provide an indication of how conversation on Facebook and Twitter evolved over 36 hours, showing a notable spike overnight as the count began and more and more counties reported.
Brexit article count per time interval - 3h
On polling day, the number of articles mentioning Brexit hit an early high between 10am and 1pm, with 2,073 articles shared during that three-hour period. Activity evened out during the day before exploding overnight. Between 4am and 7am on the 24th, when the result became clear, 7,359 articles mentioning Brexit were shared on social. This declined slightly to 5,383 articles between 7am and 10am, though overall interest remained considerably high.
Shares of Brexit articles on FB and Twitter over time
As regards the volume of shares, tweets and Facebook activity hit their highest level around 4am on the morning of the 24th. NewsWhip Analytics shows that there were 257,473 shares of Brexit-related content on Facebook between 1am and 4am on the 24th June. In the same time interval, such content was shared in 315,650 tweets.
Breaking down these shares further, we can identify which publishers gathered the most engagement around the Brexit discussion in total. The following screenshot from NewsWhip Analytics shows that the Independent, Financial Times, Telegraph and BBC earned the most engagement on Facebook. Both the BBC and the Independent also fared well on Twitter, as did CNN, Bloomberg, and the New York Times.
A screenshot of Facebook shares by publisher for Brexit content
And these were the the top Brexit-related headlines for this period:
Biggest Brexit stories on FB and Twitter June 23rd and 24th
The BBC’s rolling updates, which included coverage of David Cameron’s resignation, generated a total of 106,428 interactions on Facebook and Twitter in 36 hours. A Mashable piece focusing on Donald Trump’s reaction to Brexit – and the frosty reception it earned – also proved extremely popular, earning a total of 73,391 interactions. CNN has two pieces in this list. One featured a series of updates as the morning wore on, while the second takes a more analytical approach. Combined, these two pieces earned 106,683 interactions on social. Finally, the Independent and Metro covered Nigel Farage’s backtracking on certain pre-referendum promises, eliciting 36,024 and 40,887 interactions respectively.

Facebook Reactions

For this period, NewsWhip Analytics indicates that audiences used Facebook Reactions on a total of 366 posts. Of that 366, 59 posts or 16% were videos. 33 (9%) were photos and 2 (0.5%) were text posts, but the vast majority (272, or 74%) were external links.
Here’s an overview of how audiences reacted:
Top Facebook reactions around Brexit-related content, June 23rd and 24th

*The headline which generated the most “sad” Reactions was published by The Independent.

While a photo from Sarah Palin earned the most “likes” in this period, other Reactions were used mainly in response to publisher coverage. The high number of “sad” and “angry” Reactions would seem to suggest that, broadly, Facebook audiences leaned more towards Remain in the referendum. The highest number of non-like Reactions overall however were “wow” Reactions, used in response to the New York Times’ coverage of the result and Cameron’s resignation.

Interested in politics content on social? Sign up for a free trial of Spike and track the biggest stories on social platforms as they emerge.

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