Opposition parties take their campaigning to social media

With around 7.5 million South Africans on Twitter and between 13-14 million on Facebook, it is only logical for parties to make their presence felt on these platforms ahead of the Local Government Elections on August 3.

Two of the country’s top opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) know the importance of reaching out to their followers and potential supporters through such platforms.

Marketing Director of the Democratic Alliance, Aimee Franklin, says that social media is more effective than traditional electronic media because it is direct communication with a party’s members and potential supporters.

“Social media cuts out the middle man in traditional media, who might at times communicate the message relayed incorrectly, so these platforms provide an intimate one on one way of communicating with voters.”

Though these modern platforms like Facebook and Twitter are crucial for political campaigns these days, they are not the “be all and end all.”

Franklin says, “Social media is not the silver bullet in winning an election but it is part of a broader campaign that seeks to reach people on a number of different levels.”

Listen to Aimee Franklin here:

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says his party also recognises the impact of social media and are now using this form of communication regularly to push their manifesto.

“We use the platforms to make popular the ground programs of the EFF. We also use the platforms to promote our manifesto, with Monday being a day of looking at a particular aspect of the manifesto.”

The EFF says what sets them apart from the two other parties (the ANC and DA) is that they have not appointed any social media professional to administer their accounts as this is done by party cadres volunteering themselves to advance the parties social media accounts.

“The numbers are more natural with the EFF in terms of the growth because we are not using any specialised or skilled personnel to administer our accounts, as opposed to what the other parties are doing,” says Ndlozi.

Listen to Mbuyiseni Ndlozi here:

Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director at World Wide Worx, admits that social media followers are important but do not necessarily equal to votes on the polls.

“There is also another dynamic where you will find that political leaders like Helen Zille and Julius Malema will have more followers online than individual African National Congress (ANC) leaders but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will receive more votes than the ANC in the election.”

Listen to Arthur Goldstuck here:

As things stand the DA and EFF have 216 000 and 151 000 followers on Twitter respectively, and 339 943 and 160 779 on Facebook.

The ANC on the other hand has 304 000 twitter followers and 338 803 Facebook likes.

Come August 3rd, we will see if popularity on the social media platforms means anything on election day.


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