Ireland Voted Yes: Social Media Case Study 

25 May 2015  
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Didn’t it feel great to be a part of history on Friday?

The success of the Marriage campaign was down to many things, but in my opinion a huge part of it was their total clarity and ownership of social media.

This vote was always going to tap into Irish young people, so it had to be played out on social media. This was no half-arsed attempt at a Twitter page; this was Total Mastery and the team behind need it to be applauded for a very long time yet. This graphic from Colin Oliver shows that the yes side led the way on social media from the outset:

In total, there were 74,721 ‘Vote Yes’ mentions across to 11,894 ‘Vote No’ mentions in Ireland across Twitter, blogs and forums in the month leading up to the vote.


What I really enjoyed was observing how at the different stages, the messaging changed to bring people’s focus on key actions required at that time. Let’s take a look…


Back in early April (voting day – 8 weeks), I first came across Straight Up For Equality website.  I immediately loved the clarity of the messaging, the initial touchpoints of the campaign encouraging people to update their social media avatars to say they’re voting yes.  They made it so easy to create badges and share them across social media.  I’m told there were 500,000 badges made, that’s 12.5% of the total population.

yes equality





Or the utter simplicity of ‘ring granny’, encouraging people to take the message right off the screens and into the heart of families.

The YesEquality name, branding and website are the work of Fusio and Language Design. Lovely job boys! 

This is the video that I saw of YouTuber James Mitchell ring his nana.  It touched my heart.

Around this time, I had a word with my Mammy (who is herself a granny).  She, rather worriedly, said OF COURSE she’d be voting yes, but that she didn’t see many posters around. She’s of the generation that used to see issues played out on telegraph poles, and she was right, there weren’t many posters around at that time.  All the action was happening on social media.

So Then Came The Posters

Including this offyes equalityensive one from the No campaign, which backfired on them after the Australian couple depicted came out to say they were disgusted at their image being used in this way.  [Cue a separate discussion on why people put their pics up on stock shot sites in the first place; there are easier ways to earn a few bucks!]

The Yes Equality team have released stats about their campaign, and they hung 5,000 posters nationwide.  I found this No poster, which I had to look at every day on the way home from work, personally very offensive.



Voter Registration & Education

A key date in May was the closing date for voter registration. The Yes campaign successfully highlighted this important date and it was reported there were over 65,000 new voters registered by the closing date on 18 May. Over the course of the register being open, this figure equates to approximately 2000 new voters joining the register every day.

yes equality facebookMuch of the content switched then to educate first-time voters about the process. Sharable, informative, and delivered to newly registered voters in the places they hang out: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram.





yes equality campaign social media case studyThis continued right up to polling day with lots of shares happening last week warning people not to take selfies in polling booths, or otherwise inadvertently spoil their votes.





The winner last week in the run up to the referendum was Hailo’s hilarious “heterophobic” taxi driver and their pledge to give free taxi rides to get people to the polling station on time if they pre-booked for Friday.

Bring On The Celebrity Endorsements!

Then came the celebrities, I particularly liked Hozier’s call ‘to stand up and take into our own hands the future of our nation and its values.’  Snow Patrol said they were delighted for their brilliant ‘Just Say Yes’ to be used, and perhaps the biggest nail in the no coffin came when Daniel O’Donnell came out advocating a yes!

In the last few days before the Referendum, when the no side was blatantly confusing the issue by not letting go of their surrogacy argument, that our former President Mary McAleese came in and blew apart their arguments.  I have never felt such respect for this Canon Lawyer who is herself a Mum to a gay son.

Twitter Trends

Twitter was really where it all played out.  Twitter comes into its own in fast moving platform, conversation rich newsy events such as the Marriage Equality Referendum, and these stats from Colin Oliver showed it to be the core driver of social media conversations.


The hashtag #MarRef was used 893,118 times in less than two months, resulting in an estimated 1 billion impressions.

The rest of the world was soon aware of this monumental movement, and this great image from Colin Oliver shows how far the conversation spread.

The results sing to my Twitter heart. A true indication of the power of the Irish tweeters, and just look at how far it spread!

The App

As if that all wasn’t enough, the YES Equality group also launched an app in the run-up to voting day. Based on the success of the previously mentioned Twittbon badges, the app allowed users to add messages and badges to selfies. Perfect for the young voter!

It also reminded users about ballot day and encouraged them to share information with friends. It was a source of useful information on how to vote for those who may be new to the process.


Newsjacking For The National Good

Tourism Ireland was quick to spot the opportunity to remind the world what a wonderful little island we are, and released this video the day after the vote passed. Think about it – someone had to sign off on the project in the run up to the referendum. We like your confidence lads!

Getting some inbound tourist visitors on the back of this referendum would be fantastic, I just want to know why Dublin City Council couldn’t do something similar and maybe have put up a few screens in town on Saturday for people to watch the results as they happened. Typical for this country, it was played out in the pubs which isn’t exactly conducive to families bringing kids in to experience history.

The Marriage Referendum social media campaign was brilliant in its planning and execution.  This blog post doesn’t do it justice.  Big congrats to the YES Equality team.  We salute you!

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Image credits: informatique on Flickr

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  1. Overall I think the campaign’s real success was in its ability to have _real_ people of all ages and demographics telling real stories. The ‘No’ campaign had two angry gay men and one American woman who said she regretted not having a dad. It just didn’t compare to the many stories on the ‘Yes’ side.

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