Twitter abuzz for the elections

The night before the local government election and what is trending on twitter? #ifyoulethelenzillewin

Is that feeling threatened and causing trouble, or some humour? Thankfully, we do have some humour to help us through the maelstrom of local government elections. ZANews and Hayibo provided some entertainment with a Zuma/Zille election interview.

On twitter, #LGE2011 and #vote were also trending on the eve of the election, also with some humour. The DA was picking up flak on twitter because of an SMS that didn’t include opt-out options, leading Helen Zille to explain opt-out options on twitter. Humour saved us again – from @digital_diamond: “People in #southafrica moaning about receiving a sms #vote from @DA_News?! Be grateful – I got a “Please call me” from @MyANC”

So, how has social media played a role in the local government elections of 2011?

The two big players (ANC and DA) have definitely used facebook and twitter to engage some of their constituency – and with some measure of success it seems, if you follow the twitter buzz. Both have used twitter hashtags to conduct conversations with their constituencies – @DAQA and #ANCLive.

Other parties have seemingly had little impact using social media in their campaigns.

In the last week, Jacob Zuma finally joined twitter as @SAPresident and garnered 17,000 followers in just one week and just five tweets. That’s not bad. For a country whose voters are supposedly downcast about lack of delivery, they do appear quite excited about politics and the election. Old habits die hard. South Africans cannot forgoe their fundamental interest in politics – which is a good thing.

Of course, the downside of social media is that not everyone is on it. You have to have a smart phone, or a desktop internet connection, to use facebook and twitter to talk to your politicians.

What we don’t know interestingly, is what’s trending on MXit, the biggest social media network in South Africa. There is no political content on their main menu or tradepost. So any political commentary, if it’s happening, is going on in private chatrooms, not measured in any public fora.

The basics:

ANC – 26,000 facebook followers
Jacob Zuma – has 6,500 facebook followers, but 17,000 followers on twitter at @SAPresident. These followers he got in just one week, and with only 5 tweets! It appears South Africans are hungry for political content.

DA – 6,200 facebook followers and 1,500 twitter followers.
Helen Zille – has 173,000 followers on facebook and 33,700 followers on twitter. Her twitter profile has gained a substantial traction very recently – see the stats here.
(Last year, Helen Zille said she thought social media was a good way to connect with communities here).

The IEC also has made attempts at social media, but not many followers, on facebook (36 followers), twitter (760 followers) and youtube.

Twitter is definitely where the online buzz is, for this election. Watch it on 18th May, and let’s hope every South African comes out to vote and have their say – it’s what we fought for, after all.