Well Told Story: Kenyan youth views on the 2017 election

Our latest collaboration with Emmy-award winning Well Told Story analysed social media data in the run-up to Kenya's 2017 election

Well Told Story: Kenyan youth views on the 2017 election

Well Told Story engages and inspires young people in East Africa through its multimedia platform — Shujaaz. In preparation for the 2017 Presidential Elections in Kenya, Africa’s Voices and Well Told Story joined forces to explore social media discourse on Shujaaz around governance. 

Social media data gives researchers unprecedented access to digital conversations at a massive scale. DJ B is Shujaaz’s lead character and his Facebook page is a perfect example of social media’s big data.

DJ B’s page has been liked by 473,014 people. In the past 12 months, DJ B has made 6,492 posts, which have inspired 106,089 comments (from 37,835 unique users) and 653,427 reactions (from 176,263 unique users).


In the ten months running up to the election in September 2017, we analysed Facebook data to ask questions such as: what topics do fans prefer? Why does certain content go “viral” while others not? What is the prevalent ‘mood’ or sentiment around various themes?

Our analysis combined a range of techniques and approaches, including thematic analysis, machine learning, sentiment analysis, and built upon our previous work with Well Told Story and in Kenya.

Insights & IMPACT

A small number of “power users” actively shape the online conversations, while a larger group of fans react or silently observe. By engaging more actively with the power users, Well Told Story can increase the engagement of fans on DJ B’s Facebook page. Power users can act as “ambassadors” bridging people and topics together.

Another finding was that the elections were not the most important topic. Overall, corruption and unemployment were the two most common topics discussed, recurring throughout the entire 10-month conversation on governance inspired by the 157 posts by DJ B.

Given the significant overlap between multiple sub-topics, Well Told Story can work on curating discussions that cut across many issues to inspire broader engagement of Shujaaz fans who would otherwise remain confined to issue-specific conversations. This will help create more realistic, wholesome conversations relevant to DJ B’s fans everyday life.



PROJECT  TEAM: Dr Matti Pohjonen (Lead Researcher), Lis Kerr (Computational linguist), Dr Sharath Srinivasan. 

Photo credit: Shujaaz fans get in Nairobi.  Riccardo Gangale/USAID