SOCIAL media, as we now know it, wasn’t even invented when Margaret Thatcher was in power. And yet nearly a quarter century after she left Downing Street news of her death has been one of the most discussed events ever on Twitter and Facebook in Britain.
At YouGov we have a social media audience measurement tool known as SoMA – this shows that a whopping 85 per cent of the UK Twitter population heard something about Margaret Thatcher through the service on Monday (almost exactly the same as heard about the 2012 Olympic Games on the day of the opening ceremony).
With so many people following news-based tweeters, big events often lead to high reach scores on Twitter. However, this does not always follow through to its big social network rival, Facebook.
Monday was an exception, though – SoMA also tracks what people are hearing on Facebook, and so we know that on the same day more than half (54 per cent) of UK Facebook users saw updates related to the late Baroness.
Diving into what was actually being said on social media, as one would expect opinions were just as divided as the views of the commentariat and those of the millions of ordinary people for whom Thatcher still elicits strong emotions.
For some, her legacy will forever be associated with inequality and cuts. Here are a couple of prominent examples:
Labour MP John Mann (@JohnMannMP) tweeted: “Soon after #Thatcher left office my mother dying of cancer spent eight hours on a hospital trolley (NHS cuts). A strong leader, but a wrong one.”
For others, she took tough decisions that brought Britain back from the brink:
Vincent Benard (@vbenard), an adviser for the French Liberal Democrat party, tweeted: “Thatcher, the good: restored faith in free economy. Showed determination against communism. She allowed tenants of public homes to buy it. One third seized the opportunity.”
Even the current Prime Minister’s reaction was tweeted, via @Number10gov: “It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We’ve lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton,” David Cameron said.
The overall perception of Thatcher’s legacy will no doubt develop over time. But regardless of how one feels about her, no one could argue that Margaret Thatcher has not left a deep and enduring mark on this country – the reverberations from which are still being felt today.
As with many events in her life, news of her death has quickly reached far and wide – it has just used a different medium to do so.
Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov