By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent

The votes have been cast, tallied and counted (well almost).

The party enumerations, machinations and recriminations are underway.

In the coming weeks, when the dust has settled, the candidates and parties will be reflecting on what went right, and in many cases wrong, with their campaigns.

As part of that post mortem they will no doubt ponder what role was played by social media, who used it to maximum value and what could or should have been done differently online.

Prior to the campaign starting, #ge16 was billed as being the first truly social media election in Ireland.

And it was – at least to the extent to which it was used by candidates and parties to sell their messages, and by voters to converse about the issues.

The level to which social media impacted on voters’ views and willingness to vote is a question for the political and social scientists.

Indeed, hopefully it is forming the bones of an academic study already underway in some Irish university.

But what is clear now is that engagement levels on social media were very high.

According to the SentiWords tool built for RTÉ by the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, there were 689,763 tweets posted about the election between the morning of February 3rd when the election date was announced and midnight on the 28th February – two days after the election itself.

The top issues during that period were Finance, Health, Abortion, Irish Water, Housing and Crime.

The sentiment expressed was broadly equally positive and negative in tweets around Finance and Health; more positive than negative in mentions of Abortion and considerably more negative than positive in the tweets related to Irish Water, Housing and Crime.

Interestingly though, Irish Water had been the most discussed issue in the five weeks prior to the campaign formally beginning, followed by Finance, Health, Housing and Abortion.

Gerry Adams just edged out Enda Kenny as the most mentioned candidate, followed by Joan Burton, Stephen Donnelly and Michéal Martin.

Sentiment expressed in tweets about Donnelly was considerably more positive than negative, where as for the others it was roughly equally positive as negative.

It is noteworthy, however, that in the five weeks prior to the campaign, it was Enda Kenny and Alan Kelly who were getting the most mentions, followed by Joan Burton, Gerry Adams and Michael Lowry.

Stephen Donnelly only started to make it into the top five most mentioned around the time of the first RTÉ leaders debate, in which he took part.

Over on the other big platform, Facebook, there were 3.8 million interactions related to the election during the course of the campaign, with 1.5 million coming in the four days leading up to polling day.

Indeed between November 1st and February 26th, 1 million people were involved in 6.8 million Facebook posts, comments, shares and likes related to the election.

Similar to Twitter, the Economy was the top mentioned election issue, overtaking Health during the campaign itself.

Infrastructure and Crime and Corruption were the next most discussed topics.

While on the party front, Fine Gael was referenced the most, with Sinn Féin coming in close second, followed by Fianna Fáil and Labour.

Some of the parties were also active on other platforms like YouTube, Periscope, Instagram and Snapchat, though we don’t have figures for them – nor are they as widely used here as Facebook and Twitter.

Prior to the election campaign beginning, the social media strategists were emphasising how they would use the platforms to disseminate their message and engage with voters.

But what quickly became clear to anyone observing their activities online, was that social media was primarily used as a tool for negative campaigning and as a stick with which to beat their opponents with.

Just look at the top 20 most retweeted posts carrying the main general election hashtag (#ge16) from during the campaign, compiled by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics’ project, Insight4Elections.

But what this list (and other examples from the campaign) also show is that positivity and levity can also result in high levels of engagement around politics on social media.

Amusing or thoughtful posts are just as likely to be shared, commented upon and liked or favourited it seems.

Even election songs/videos, like those in support of candidates like Mattie McGrath, Tim Jackson and Michael “Pixie” O’Gorman for example, attracted attention.

Let’s hope then that if we must all endure another campaign in the weeks or months ahead, the positive lessons of #ge16 will be learned.

Comments welcome via Twitter to @willgoodbody