Social Media

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ELECTIONS

Social media has revolutionised the interest in networked digital connectivity and political action. The use of internet and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube is a common feature in today’s political dispensation as the public’s time and attention is increasingly directed towards these, as a source of information as well as a means to express views and opinions.

The result of this is, the control of public dialogue and opinions has partly been taken way from politicians and traditional leaders and placed with ordinary people at the helm of their own narrative; with the ability to set the agenda for current, social, economic and political trends. Social media enables people from different communities to engage and form a network of communication that unites or goes against a particular establishment or issue

The Election Situation Room (ESR) is designed to capitalise on how the emergence of social media has changed the way communication takes place. Using social media enables the ESR to capture the opinions, views, interests and dynamics of the users in relation to the political dynamics of the ESR host country.

Hence, when setting up an election situation room, it is important to plan and budget for a social media component because the active participation of users on your ESR platforms will be an important element in capturing and documenting the progression of the electoral cycle, as well as creating awareness about political and electoral processes because users will connect and engage with the platforms in real time. Social platforms will enable the ESR to gauge voter interest and identify what truly matters to them and target them with the right messaging by using social data and the right data-driven strategy.

If the ESR wants to maximise use of social media, the team members should become familiar with how each platform functions, the kind of audiences it can reach and how the ESR can increase the efficiency use of each platform to mobilise people and pass on information.

Here are some popular and efficient social media platforms the ESR can use;

Social Media Platforms

Facebook

Facebook is the largest social network on the web with over 1.86 billion active users monthly. About1.15 billion daily are mobile active users and 1.23 billion people log onto Facebook as daily active users worldwide according to statistics released by Facebook in January 2017. This translates that a large number of people are active and consistent in using the platform which presents an opportunity of an existing audience for the ESR because not only is it the largest network, but also versatile.

Facebook can be used for the following;

  • Share photos
  • Share videos
  • Share important updates
  • Live broadcasts of events
  • Create a page
  • Create a group
  • Create online polls
  • Access Analytics data to measure reach and impact

For the ESR, it is recommended to create a page that people can follow and access information in the form of news, current affairs and events coming out of the situation room. Posts can be sponsored at reasonably affordable rates increasing the reach and engagement.

It is recommended to post at least one or two updates daily to engage the audience and not overwhelm them with too much information. Always remember to keep it relevant. Some tips would be for the ESR to create;

  • Communicative visual graphics with election related content
  • Create short and catchy phrases to stimulate people’s interest
  • Create and share upcoming events
  • Keep posts simple and straight forward
  • Set timers to post at durations when people are most active online to gain traffic
  • Share links to the ESR website
  • Livestream events such as press conferences, radio/tv interviews and stakeholder meetings

Ensure that the Social Media manager is non-partisan, tolerant of diverse views and knowledgeable to engage with the audience in a professional manner.

Twitter

Twitter is a great platform for real time updates that are shared in short text updates (maximum of 140 characters). Twitter can be used to

  • Share updates
  • Share very short videos
  • Share images
  • Share links
  • Livestream
  • Create online polls

The unique components of Twitter as a platform are that it enables easy interaction with users due to the concise approach which is because of the limited characters of only 140. Twitter is a great way for the ESR to quickly connect with the public, organizations and influencers globally as it is a very effective channel for handling real time interactions with users who seek you out, to express concerns or share their opinions. Twitter is also a great tool for quickly spreading information due to the nature of it sharing options called retweets which allow users to share your updates to their social networks and beyond. The other important thing to note is the creation of hashtags which help to boost posts, as a user with a lot of followers retweet your status, your content has the potential to go viral. Some tips for the ESR on Twitter are;

  • Create a simple username
  • Use quality images for the ESR’s profile and cover pictures
  • Create a simple and interesting bio-profile to explain what the ESR is about
  • Follow organizations and individuals that have interest in elections and governance issues relevant to the Region and tap into their social networks to grow the ESR’s own following.
  • Create a unique hashtag where all ESR posts can be curated and easily tracked
  • Share relevant and engaging content with users on a daily basis
  • Stay updated with trends and current affairs whilst equally finding creative ways to gain followers and engagements by relating what the ESR does with that particular trend.
  • You can post as many times as you like on Twitter because the engagement is fast paced and in real time.

Instagram

Instagram is a visual platform based entirely on photo and video posts. It is owned by Facebook and has more than 600 million active users. The unique component of the platform that resonates with its users is the unique filters and photo/video editing options. Its popularity is based on it being a mobile based app though there is a web version too.

The ESR can use this platform to tap into the generation of millennials who have a short attention span and are more captivated by visual presentations. For Instagram to work with an ESR concept, it is important that the person running the account has a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, so that the photos and videos posted to the account are of high-quality and intriguing.

YouTube

YouTube is a video-sharing platform with over a billion users, where people can view, upload, rate, share, and comment on content. Users are automatically assigned a channel, in which other users can subscribe in order to be notified whenever a new video is uploaded. The ESR can use this platform to upload and share video content that is large to upload on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The videos can be excerpts from radio/tv interviews, stakeholder meetings and outreach campaigns undertaken by the ESR. The videos must be driven by creativity, therefore it is relevant to hire a professional service to document and produce video content from various ESR undertakings.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a cross-platform instant messaging service for smartphones that relies on the internet for the transmission of messages and voice calls. It is a cheap alternative to carrier-billed text messaging via SMS, especially for international or group messaging. The mobile messaging app enables users to share text, image and video messages.

It is recommended to create a WhatsApp group where citizens can be added and report incidents in their areas during elections. The ESR has to ensure that it has at least 3 or 4 people assigned the role of Administrator as things can get heated very quickly in a group where people share divergent views and ideologies. The Administrators of the group need to be neutral, tolerant, and dedicated people who are able to handle tensed conversations within a group.

Towards the Election date, WhatsApp can be a great resource for real time incidents such as violence, late opening of polling stations, feedback regarding press statements and information coming out of the ESR.

For all the listed platforms, take into consideration

  • Who uses it
  • What to share: 
  • Post frequency: