What if we held elections using social media?

By Duncan Alfreds

If the national election were to be conducted online, the Democratic Alliance would top the polls, a survey has found.

Compiled by Strategy Worx, the Online Presence Effectiveness Survey found that the DA had the most comprehensive online presence.

The company used an Online Synergy Audit tool which analysed both party websites as well as social media presence and gave the political parties a rating.

The DA scored 58%, Agang SA 52%, the ANC 46%, Cope 35% and the IFP scored 21%.

“The scores showed all the parties fell well short of online best practice, and it is clear that none of the political parties effectively use the online environment to communicate with their intended audience,” said Steven Ambrose, CEO of Strategy Worx.

Facebook success

The company surveyed Agang SA because it appears to understand the online environment well, said Ambrose, but the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) fronted by Julius Malema, was not surveyed.

According to Ambrose, the DA got the nod by virtue of its sheer volume of online touch points.

“The DA firmly edged out the second placed Agang, due to the DA’s extensive use of social media and its comprehensive presence across the web,” said Ambrose.

“The DA has numerous secondary websites focusing on regional areas and even individual sites for certain party leaders. The party’s use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media properties was generally consistent and appropriate,” he added.

Facebook support for the DA has surged since the acrimonious split between the party and Agang SA leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele. The DA has seen its Facebook likes increase from around 40 000 to 57 000 in a week.

The ANC has remained relatively consistent with 58 000 likes of the party’s Facebook page, while Agang SA has around 34 000 likes.

DA leader Helen Zille is active on Twitter with over 25 000 tweets and 374 000 followers, while SA President Jacob Zuma has 310 000 followers, but only 99 tweets.

But social network success alone does not always represent the way people actually think.

Public concerns

“Social media is innately problematic as a polling mechanism because there are many voters who don’t use social media and don’t follow political parties on social media,” Samantha Fleming, social media consultant at Afrosocialmedia told News24.

However, she conceded that the medium was a useful conduit to gauge public concerns.

“That said, social media can be a useful tool for political parties to get an idea of voters’ concerns and issues.”

Since the election of US President Barack Obama in 2008, politicians have taken the lesson of using social media as an integral component of campaigns.

However, in SA, the methodology may exclude a large percentage of the population who are still “offline” in that they don’t actively participate in online mediums.

Published on News24.com