A couple of days ago, I was analyzing who the biggest political influencers on Twitter were. The numbers were small, because despite the number of selfies generated by the average TweetUpSL, Twitter in Sri Lanka is still a small circle. It’s Facebook that reigns supreme for now, so let’s get on the Zuckertrain.

Warning: you’re in for a spreadsheet. Friendly graphics appear after the spreadsheet. 

Before we begin, let me declare that I, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, while having my own political preference, have not in any way willfully misrepresented any facts here due to those preferences.  This analysis was conducted as part  of a larger effort spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Press Institute. 

Unlike Twitter, conversations on Facebook are much harder to follow with data tools. This is because of the way Facebook presents information: it weighs thousands of factors, including the user’s likes, dislikes and history of interaction before creating a feed likely to engage a person. Anyone trying to search data from Facebook receives stuff that is biased to suit their own tastes. The obvious solution is to look at the political pages. I looked at the outflow of content and the engagement received by the top political pages in the week before the General Election: that should give us some idea of it.

Here are the top 25 political influencers on Facebook.  

Name Total likes Likes of SL origin SL as % of Total likes Increase from last week Posts This Week Engagement This Week
Maithripala Sirisena 726,552 555,599 76.70% 11% 43 28,855
Mahinda Rajapaksa 712,216 562,372 79.00% 2% 134 473,952
Namal Rajapaksa 593,891 428,533 72.20% 1.10% 18 146,909
Rajitha Senaratne 356,792 284,935 79.90% 0.70% 34 29,049
Ranil Wickremesinghe 308,898 266,798 86.80% 4.00% 164 153,497
Ranjan Ramanayake 301,690 235,685 78.30% 2.70% 117 405,169
UPFA – A Brighter Future 286,934 218,059 76.10% 1.10% 245 188,703
Sajith Premadasa 279 727 238,850 85.40%
Sujeewa Senasinghe 259,668 232,228 89.50% 1.30% 41 120,893
United National Party 239,182 210,212 87.90%
Patali Champika Ranawaka 214,918 175 626 81.70% 16.80% 250 38,812
Buddhika Pathirana 201,169 150,093 74.80% 3% 96 67,358
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka 182,288 142,869 78.40% 1% 139 24,020
Anura Kumara Dissanayake 176,079 137,052 77.80% 1.60% 199 239,490
Ravi Karunanayake 170,006 126,069 74.20% 13% 129 48061
Daya Gamage 160,859 144,193 90.00% 4.30% 183 62,705
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe 141,395 128,700 91.10% 1% 170 28,342
Duminda Silva 130,843 98,248 75.10% 1.10% 1 849
Mahinda Pathegama 119,750 33,511 28.00% 3.40% 7 126
Rakitha Rajapakshe 102,162 97,412 96.30% 6.40% 5 13,063
Udaya Prabath Gammanpila 100,340 78,344 78.10% 5% 53 49,879
Harsha de Silva 100,304 91,986 91.70% 3.60% 83 23,012
Harin Fernando 98,417 88,204 89.70% 0.90% 73 95,791
Rosy Senanayake 96,801 92,320 95.40% 11.60% 121 9,030
Thilanga Sumathipala 90,493 82,762 91.50% 10.30% 101 9,093

This list is political influencers rated by the number of likes they have on Facebook – their potential audience. I’ve also included the numbers for how many of those likes are actually Sri Lankan, and therefore with a higher probability of being able to vote than the rest. For some reason, Facebook’s insights tool isn’t giving me the engagement numbers for Sajith Premadasa’s and the UNP’s pages.

Some takeaways are immediately apparent:

1) Far more than political party pages, politicians’ personal pages show the biggest presence on Facebook.

2) Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena are in a league of their own.

3) Most politicians maintain a majority of Sri Lankan likes. The top two on the list – Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena – have roughly similar amounts of total likes and Sri Lankan likes.

Rosy Senanayake, Harsha De Silva, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Daya Gamage have best Likes /  Sri Lankan likes ratio – 90% and above.  Mahinda Pathegama is the exception to this – only around 28% of his likepool are Sri Lankans. One wonders who’s reading Mr Pathegama’s posts – as it turns out, it seems to be a lot of Pakistani click-farmers.

As much as I like the data, I have to admit it’s horribly unappealing when viewed this way. Let’s visualize it. Here’s the top five, by order of the number of likes:


Notice that while Maithripala Sirisena and Rajitha Senaratne have large numbers of relevant likes, their engagement is almost pitiful compared to the others. At the end of the day, all that matters is the people you can engage in: if the President isn’t engaging the People, who is?

This is where Ranjan Ramanayake comes in.

Facebook-2This is what happens when we sort by engagement.

Engagement here is everything – clicks; post likes; post comments; shares; video plays.

The engagement statistic  quickly reduces many of the ‘largest’ pages to irrelevancy. R. Duminda Silva, for example, engaged only 849 people in the week prior to the election. The top influencers on Facebook, therefore, were:

Mahinda Rajapaksa – 473,952 accounts  engaged

Ranjan Ramanayake  – 405,169 accounts  engaged

Anura Kumara Dissanayake  – 239,490 accounts  engaged

UPFA – A Brighter Future  – 188,703 accounts engaged

Ranil Wickremesinghe  – 153,497 accounts engaged

Namal Rajapaksa  – 146,909 accounts engaged

With Sujeewa Senasinghe being the only other person to break the 100K influence mark.

Here’s a better visual:

Facebook-4It’s startling to see that One Shot, pre-election, was garnering a lot more attention than President Maithripala Sirisena: he’s clearly playing a much better social media game. Only Namal and Mahinda appear again here – they’ve got large Facebook pages that are well taken care of.

It’s easy to assume that the President wasn’t interested in social media at all, or his media team just wasn’t good enough. Another likely explanation, however, is that since the President wasn’t contesting, he chose to stay away and not stir the fires. Acceptance of this last theory seems to depend mostly on who you voted for.

As the last stage of the analysis, let’s dig deeper: what type of content have these people been posting?

Based on the 25 most recent posts, as of Sunday night:

Mahinda Rajapaksa posts 6.61 posts a day. 41.7% of his posts are images; 58.3%   of them are videos. On average, he gets 5,154 likes, comments, and shares per post.

Mahinda's strategy: "Picture this!"

Mahinda’s strategy: “Picture this!”

Ranjan Ramanayake, the real.rr, does 11.12 posts per day. 62.5% of his posts are images.  12.5% are videos.  8.3% are notes and 16.7%  are statuses. He averages 4,673 likes, comments and shares per post.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake makes 10.67 post per days. 58.3% of his posts are images and  41.7% are videos. He averages  2,107 likes, comments and shares per post.

The UPFA posts a whopping 43.41 times a day. 37.5%  of these are images,   37.5%  are notes and  25%  are text statuses. It averages 615 likes, comments and shares per post.  

Ranil Wickremesinghe. He averages 6.05  posts per day.  Most of his posts – a good 87.5% – are images.   8.3%  are videos.  4.2% are notes. These achieve 2,497  likes, comments and shares per post.

Namal Rajapaksa posts 2.78 times a day.  62.5%  of his posts are images;  37.5% are videos. He averages 7163 likes, comments and shares per post

Sujeewa Senasinghe posts 4.90 times per day. By type, his posts are 62.5% images, 33.3% are videos and 4.2% are text statuses. He earns 4,508 likes, comments and shares per post.

The Conclusion

There are many conclusions to be drawn from the data, depending on what you’re interested in; for example, a digital advertising agency will probably note that certain politicians’ pages are very poorly managed. My desire was to map out the biggest influencers, so my task is now done. A small portion of this is incomplete – Sajith Premadasa and the UNP, to my regret, have not been fully factored in for engagement.

The two people who consistently show up on both Twitter and Facebook are Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa. This is to be expected – in a sense, this election is still a continuation of debate between the ethos and values espoused by these two political behemoths. We saw many others rise to the social media game – what was basically a case of Maithripala + Ranil vs The Rajapaksa Clan and Assorted UPFA pages dissolved into a horde of individual politicians screaming for attention – but nevertheless, a sizeable fraction of the biggest influencers this time around were also the same people from the January 8th election. After all, audiences and reputations carry over, and people are listened to.

This dataset, as before, is free to download. The Facebook data requires no fancy visualization software – just Excel and a pair of eyes will do. See my previous post for the Twitter data.