Who Is Winning the Ukraine Social Media Wars?

Monitoring and commenting on an unraveling US policy toward Russia over Ukraine today, I decided to show those interested some compelling news even the US State Department is not aware of. Western mainstream media hammering away, thousands of US government employees have been tasked with rolling out Obama administration propaganda, the mention battle for Ukraine on Twitter is all but lost for John Kerry’s minions.

Is the truth coming through? What does Twitter influence say?

Using a slick metrics and monitoring tool called Brandwatch, I’ll show you who is winning and who is losing the PR war over Ukraine. As you can see below, I’ve provided a screenshot of my Brandwatch dashboard for #Ukraine. The last seven days have been busy, with something on the order of 77 thousand mentions for just the #hashtag #Ukraine on Twitter.

The Brandwatch dashboard for #Ukraine - watch

The Brandwatch dashboard for #Ukraine – watch this

The Influence Gurus Come Out

Leverage, this is what moves the social world. Whether or not you are an influencer, being able to “convince” is the single most important communicative skill there is. You’ll notice I said “skill”, instead of gift etc. To acquire this skill, you first have to understand the weight of influence on networks like Twitter and Facebook. For finding out who’s influential in the #Ukraine media war, in social, Brandwatch helps us establish the winners and losers very quickly. RT’s stringer Graham W. Phillips (@grahamwp_uk), for example, is by far the most influential tweep of the last week. The tag cloud (mention cloud) I generated below shows this from among all top tweeters this week.

GrahamWPhillips eclipsed all other tweeps for RT

GrahamWPhillips eclipsed all other tweeps for RT

It turns out, Graham is not alone telling the other side (not NATO propaganda) of the Ukraine story. In the mix of most influentials this week on Twitter, RT’s Middle East Bureau Chief, Paula Slier (PaulaSlier_RT), RT proper (@rt_com),  and on the Ukrainian unity side of the coin, Christopher Miller, compete for reach and mentions combatively. In the end though, it’s ironic that even though Mashable’s (Kyiv Post and Miller) social weight is First Person: An Aston... Vladimir Putin, Natali... Best Price: $3.67 Buy New $8.99 (as of 08:55 EST - Details) thrown into the chasm, Miller’s and Kiev’s view have become obscure since days now.

Additionally, even though Russia Today is the dominant presence today, two weeks ago parity in between pro and anti-Russian sentiment existed. What’s made the difference more than RT coverage, has been independent freelancers like Roza Kazan (@rozakazancctv) whose tweets of images  have received hundreds of tweets and re-tweets. She’s second behind Graham in influencing the view on Twitter this week, whereas self proclaimed #frustrated German” Steiner (@steiner1776) has made a difference too. Just as has Kiev advocacy account Euromaidan PR (@euromaidanpr), falling in on the Ukraine unity side behind Kyiv Post/Mashable editor/writer Christopher Miller, whose Mashable tweets allow Kiev’s regime to stay in the social game.


Adding voice to the conversation by helping influencers by influencers

Now, in order to affect this situation, tools like Brandwatch can be really effective, if a bit subtle. As you can see (hopefully) from the screen below, I’ve pulled up the most impactful recent tweet from a user named “Paul Payer” – this RT of   (as above) adds weight to the “financial” side of the twitter battle for Ukraine influence. In case you were unaware, this is why you see outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and in particular the The Economist (@TheEconomist) so prevalently not only in Google and Bing News, but in social as well. Still another reason may be, the fact hedge players and politicians play the margins on the stock market manipulating policy like this. But more on that in another post.

Before this past week, as I mentioned, news outlets like BBC, Sky News, even the Wall Street Journal, and especially Euromaidan PR (@euromaidanpr) achieved rough parity (equality) of mentions and force with a low volume of tweets compared to pro-Russia supporters. Since the Odessa carnage tho0ugh, this has changed dramatically. AfterMay 2, when pro-Russian activists were trapped inside Odessa’s Trade Unions building, over 14,000 mentions reflect first competing sentiment on the causes etc., and then remained almost completely quiet where pro-Kiev sentiment was concerned.


#Odessa – definitely a frown time sentiment for the great majority 🙁


It’s interesting to note a shift in favor of the Russian side of this affair since this event. After the initial news cycle, where the most prominent tweeters were BBC, Bloomberg, and traditional news followers, what you might call the “core influencers” – passionate tweeps or those on the ground in Ukraine, demolished less vehement sentiment. Above, the mention cloud reflects a lot about what was tweeted, especially poignant is the frowny face 🙁  – all kidding aside.

Finally, monitoring topical social events like Ukraine, then interceding on one side or the other, becomes a simpler and more clearly defined task if one can compare and set one influencer against the other. One thing I find really interesting here is, even though NATO and some heavy hitting Twitter accounts (like the State Department) do tweet these issues, these are almost always outweighed by the smaller voices (If I may). Add to this the individual effort by newsroom people like Lizzie Phelan (@lizziephelan), and the Russian side of the Ukraine story does get out. In my estimation this is a bit about agency understanding of social media, and in RT’s case cooperative reporting. This is something other news agencies suck at, to be honest. However, nible the Russia Today reports are though, it’s clear too that the aggregate story, the weight of social sharing evidence (if we can call it that) eventually outweighs PR and propaganda fluff.

Let’s face it, dozens of human beings roasted in a building together, tanks running over civilians, all those wolfsangle symbols, they outweigh John Kerry harping about Vladimir Putin invasions. A lie just does not resonate when it comes to war and peace, not with the normal people. Sure, the American public is tired and apathetic, but Obama’s side has overdone it again in hyping Russophobia. At least this is how it plays out in my world of social media. My suggestion for Obama’s PR team? Try and hire one of the RT reporters if you can, your millions spent on the Cold War story aren’t showing an ROI in Ukraine. Not yet, anyway.

And that my friends is how you beat a big PR team :)

And that my friends is how you beat a big PR team 🙂

Oh, and to show how Brandwatch helps me influence a bit, the mashup above shows Graham Phillips’ mention count before and after I tweeted his story with 9 twitter accounts our businesses own. Just in case influence is something you need in the future.

Reprinted with permission from Everything PR.