The African National Congress (ANC) is the most talked-about political party among South African Internet users in the run-up to the municipal elections on May 18 this year, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) in a respectable second place.
This is one of the pieces of information that Acceleration Media was able to uncover by using the online reputation management tool Radian 6 to monitor and analyse the conversations that South Africans are having about political parties ahead of the elections.
Acceleration Media found that the ANC held a 46.6% share of the conversation in social media channels, followed by the DA with nearly 31%. About 4% of the election conversation tracked through Radian 6 was about the Inkatha Freedom Party and about 7.5% was about the Congress of the People (COPE).
Interestingly, 78.4% of the social media conservation about political parties had a neutral tone while 19.3% was negative in tone. A meagre 1.3% of the conversations reflected positive sentiments about political parties.
This shows that South Africans are mostly using social media to share election information, but when they do share opinions about political parties, these tend to be negative in nature. By tracking this data, the parties would be able to understand what voters’ concerns and grievances are and address them through their policies or communications strategies.
The largest amount of conversation – more than 36% – took place in the comments sections and discussion forums attached to mainstream news sites. Web forums accounted for 9.4% of the conversation and blogs for 26.3%. About 21% of the conversation unfolded on micromedia platforms, mostly Twitter.
This election is perhaps the first one where we have seen major political parties really make aggressive use of social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in their campaigning strategies after experimenting with them in the 2009 general elections. Even President Zuma now has a Twitter account, just like opposition leader Helen Zille.”
Radian 6 found massive volumes of chatter about political parties across social media channels, much of it driven through the parties’ official social presences. The ANC and the DA, for example, have both hosted regular Q & A sessions on Twitter where users quizzed them about their policies.
Though all parties have some way to go before their social media campaigns are as sophisticated as those of American president Barack Obama, it is encouraging to see them use social media to communicate with their constituencies and deepen the democratic process.
With an estimated 16% of cell phones in South Africa thought to be smartphones, and the proportion growing each month, it is no longer just the middle class that will be found on social media channels. By the time the next set of general elections, in 2014, political parties will have integrated online and social media into their campaigning strategies as one of their basic tools.