SA Politics: social media a key to success?

It has been an eventful year on the South African political ground. The tug of war between the African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA), personified by leaders Jacob Zuma and Helen Zille, monopolised the attention of the country.

As the influence of social media grows with regard to public opinion, one cannot help being curious about the social media life of the icons whose decisions shape the country’s future.

The Twitter page of Zuma, President of South Africa and the ANC, is buzzing with arrival announcements and grateful messages to his supporters. He also encourages the public to engage in national events, such as census, voting for awards and congratulatory messages for birthdays and weddings. On national holidays, meaning-reminders also do the round.  

Zille, Premier of the Western Cape government and leader of the DA, seems to be more social when tweeting. Her wall features quotes, comical incidents and those ‘aww’ moments, such as references to children or other encounters that evoke emotion. More serious posts show a keen interest in media publications, encouragement of good public conduct and telling questions about the news. Supporters’ tweets are also prominent on her profile in  the form of re-tweets.

The Premier’s Facebook page is much more official with statistics, media appearances and events as general posts. In contrast, the President’s Facebook page is full of public posts without responses.

Apart from the influential role of reputation that can be boosted or blown by social media networking, the information aspect is not to be underestimated.

South African provincial authorities have employed communities on Twitter and Facebook to engage with citizens. The City of Cape Town is currently the most interactive with 10,787 followers on @CityofCT and 2,798 Facebook page likes.

With six million South African Facebookers and  2.4 million South African tweeters, social media is certain to make a difference in terms of engagement between the government or political figures and the public.

“South African Internet users have embraced social media as a core pillar of their online activity,” the official South African information page reported on the revelation of a survey conducted last year.

Media involvement with celebrities is one of the main traffic drivers of social networking, according to Arthur Goldstuck, Managing Director at World Wide Worx and co-author of the survey report.

“Most radio and TV personalities with large audiences are engaged in intensive campaigns to drive their listeners and viewers to both Twitter and Facebook,” he added .

Barack Obama has shown what one man can do, by breaking the Twitter record this year with his tweets during the American election.

In 2014 the national elections will be taking place and so it seems there is one more year left for South African politicians to get socially active and savvy with media networking. Looking forward to see some enhanced engagement on the social media scene for sure!

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