Paddy Ashdown's hat - and other election night memes

There was an unprecedented level of social media activity around Thursday's general election. Here are some of the things we noticed trending throughout the day:

Exit poll reaction

After the announcement of the results of the exit poll, the former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said on BBC TV: "If this exit poll is right I will publicly eat my hat." His party was forecast to lose 46 seats if the poll turns out to be accurate. Within minutes, someone started an expletive-rich Twitter account devoted to Ashdown's hat.

Image copyright Twitter / @paddys_hat

Meanwhile the poll was cheered by supporters of the Scottish National Party, which was projected to virtually sweep its home territory. "Well, I hope you're all in the mood for another referendum on Scottish independence!" said the parody account Angry Salmond, a message that was retweeted and favourited hundreds of times.

Frivolous bragging or influencing turnout?

Facebook and Twitter took an active approach in encouraging people to vote. As of 22:00 BST, nearly 3m people had clicked a special "I'm a voter" button on Facebook. But does this represent any more than just frivolous bragging about fulfilling civic duties?

Some think the button may have an actual impact on turnout - a wide-ranging study of the use of the button in the 2010 elections in the US showed that it had a small but discernable impact on the numbers of people voting. The effect of that could be crucial in such a close election.

The "I voted" button was controversial in the US study, because some people were shown it in different ways and others weren't shown it at all - but no one was asked for their consent to be part of the study. That doesn't apply this time: all UK Facebook users were shown the button in the same way during Thursday's poll, above a gallery of their Facebook friends who also said they voted.

Image copyright Facebook

Twitter also got in on the act: users in the UK who logged on today saw a banner prompting them to vote. And by the time the polls closed, more than 160,000 people tweeted #Ivoted - a hashtag which became a top trend in the UK and worldwide. Twitter said that a total of 2.2m election-related messages were sent on Thursday.

Image copyright Twitter

Dogs At Polling Stations and viral marketing

From mid-morning the hashtag #DogsAtPollingStations was one of the more amusing big trends of the day, with more than 20,000 people using the tag on Twitter. It turned out to be a piece of guerrilla marketing by Innocent Drinks who send out the first picture of three rather forlorn looking pooches shortly before 11 a.m.:

Image copyright Innocent drinks

The company later seemed to rue the meme's success: "#DogsAtPollingStations is trending above #Democracy. Well done, people of the UK. Well done," they said. Our colleagues at Newsbeat had a roundup of some of the best dog/polling station mashups.

David Cameron's Wikipedia page

Twitter was buzzing about the defacing of several party leader Wikipedia pages, including Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. David Cameron's page was briefly replaced by a picture of Labour's Ed Miliband and the words: "Vote Labour." The action was called a "hack" by a number of news outlets and Twitter users, although Wikipedia pages are more or less open to editing by anyone, with no specialist hacking skills required. The page was restored to its previous state within minutes.

Image copyright Independent / Twitter

Galloway's exit poll leak?

Respect's George Galloway, who during the campaign was the subject of a viral video in which he seemed to question the life story of his Labour opponent, was once again involved in a social media controversy.

Galloway apparently retweeted a message suggesting he was building a substantial lead on his Labour opponent Naz Shah in exit polls in Bradford West. The tweet was later removed or deleted, as was the account where the message originally came from.

Releasing the results of exit polls while voting is still ongoing is a criminal offence, and the Bradford West returning officer referred Galloway to the police as the count continued early Friday.

Trending contacted Galloway for comment, but he hasn't responded.

Blog by Mike Wendling, Mukul Devichand and Ravin Sampat

Next story: A Canadian 'mass exodus' on social media

Follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook.

Related Topics