Malema leads SA in cyber space

2013-12-30 00:00

SOCIAL media could make a large impact on the outcome of next year’s national elections and — based on current likes and Twitter followers — the man with the most followers is Julius Malema.

Experts agree that especially the votes of South Africa’s youth will be won in cyberspace for the 2014 election.

Lauren Tracey, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said South Africa will follow the trend of countries like the U.S, where social media has swayed the outcome in several election campaigns.

In 2008 almost 70% of the voters under 25 years old voted for president Barack Obama after his Democratic Party staged an aggressive campaign on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

“With social media and digital communications increasingly used to conduct marketing and market research, it makes sense to also use social media in election campaigns.

“Political parties that understand the electioneering power of social media can be unbelievably successful, especially in the run-up to the 2014 election,” said Tracey.

Digital strategist William Seyama advised all parties who wish to fare well in next year’s elections to target the twenty-somethings, who make up more than 30% of South Africa’s 31,4 million voters.

He said in a blog on Facebook — South-Africa’s largest social network — that most of Mzansi’s citizens are between 18 and 34 years old.

Seyama said this made social media the perfect medium to reach younger voters.

“The use of social media for political campaigns has not yet been tested in South Africa, but the timing for the 2014 election is perfect in view of the increasing permeable nature of the ‘new media’ channel.”

Seyama said the Economic Freedom Fighters led by Malema could get a lot of support from voters aged between 20 and 29 years next year.

He pointed out that the trick was to convert all the likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter into votes at the ballot box.

To this end, political parties had to have a clear social media strategy just to convince twenty-something voters to register to vote, said Seyama.

JULIUS Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has the most followers on Twitter, with more than 400 000 people subscribing to his tweets.

The EFF also rules on Facebook, with 60 000 “likes”, compared to the DA with about 47 000, the ANC with 38 000 and Agang with about 33 000. DA leader Helen Zille has the second most followers at 362 000, with President Jacob Zuma third at 306 000 and Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele fourth at 30 600.

Among the political parties on Twitter, the ANC has the most followers at 89 000, followed by the DA at 51 000, Agang with 39 000 and the EFF at 31 000.

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