A York-based tech startup is keeping tabs on the tweets and Instagram photos of UK politicians for the benefit of businesses who want to know the latest stance from those in Whitehall.
Founded in 2010 by university graduate Matt Freckelton, Yatterbox boasts clients including chemical giant BASF and telecommunications firm TalkTalk, and says that keeping track of UK politicians can offer timely insights into potentially hazardous topics.
"If a politician does something online somewhere we're the ones who are going out there and capturing that information," Freckelton told V3, citing BASF as a key example of why real-time monitoring is important.
"They use the system for monitoring keywords around certain chemicals that they produce, and also key words like 'manufacturing'. They'll monitor those words in the alert system, and any mention is pushed into the inbox of the public affairs officer, who then takes that information and works out whether they need to contact the politician."
The firm has only two full-time employees, but earlier in 2013 went into partnership with international communications firm Cicero. In order to provide real-time monitoring Yatterbox not only looks at politicians' Twitter and Facebook accounts but also indexes blogs and, more unusually, their Vine, Instagram and Flickr accounts.
While the data collected from these platforms currently has limited use for businesses, Freckelton said that these services can be a "powerful tool" for politicians to demonstrate themselves to the electorate as people, citing Tom Watson's recent uptake of six-second video service Vine.
According to Yatterbox research from July, the Labour Party has the strongest representation on Twitter with 184 users, and the Conservatives follow a little behind on 179. In terms of tweet numbers, Labour is also winning. Since the start of 2013 the party has posted 148,408 tweets – 800 per day – while the Conservatives have tweeted 106,347 times.
Freckelton explained that using publicly available digital data makes his firm more agile than traditional public affairs businesses, which tend to rely on personal interactions and attending events.
Yatterbox is now looking to expand into more channels, and will add politicians from the House of Lords to its services. It also plans to add a further 300 public sector bodies to allow companies an even broader view of the ever-expanding digital political landscape.
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