SA political parties stumble on social media - analyst

(File, Twitter)
(File, Twitter)
Cape Town - As national elections draw closer, many political parties have taken to social networks to get their message out to potential voters, but they are also making fundamental errors, says an analyst.

Social media research conducted by Strategy Worx found that while major parties the Democratic Alliance, African National Congress and newcomer Agang SA had a significant presence on social media, they fell short in key areas.

"The ANC use their online presence as a broadcast medium, which reflects a fundamental misunderstanding and misuse of the online medium," said Steven Ambrose, CEO of Strategy Worx.

The ruling party has just over 58 000 likes on its Facebook page, but lacks the branding of the DA and still lists Congress of the People (Cope) president, Mosiuoa Lekota, as a member of the organisation.


Ambrose also criticised the ANC's website.

"The ANC website lacks strategic intent, and does not clarify who its intended audience is, nor does the website make any effort to engage with its constituency."

The DA on Facebook has seen a surge in the number of likes since the acrimonious split between leader Helen Zille and Agang SA's Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

The DA has grown to over 57 000 likes on the social network by Wednesday and the party has loaded video and image content to engage with its constituency.

Using the Online Synergy Audit tool which analysed both party websites as well as social media presence, Strategy Worx awarded the DA the winner in terms of its social media strategy though the company qualified that by saying that "South African political parties have failed to understand that simple placement of events, speeches, manifestos, and offline information, does not constitute good online practice".

Though a newcomer, Ambrose praised Agang SA for its strategy online, though the party has not contested an election.

"Agang, as the newest party, appears to have the best understanding of the online environment, with their score being hindered by fundamental usability and strategic content issues, which impact on their ability to effectively communicate online."

Online 'failure'

Ramphele's party has 34 000 likes on Facebook, though the party was formed after the Economic Freedom Fighters, which has 2 700 likes.

The EFF "Commander in Chief" Julius Malema though, has in excess of 412 000 followers on Twitter, significantly more than DA leader Zille at 374 000 as well South African President Jacob Zuma who has 310 000.

Cope, formed after the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki and once thought to be a formidable ANC challenger, came in for harsh criticism of its online strategy.

"Cope appears to be caught in a time warp, with their website acting more as a place holder for party propaganda and news releases than anything else. Little has changed on the site since the last election," said Ambrose.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was also lambasted as an online "failure".

"Their site is absolutely archaic, devoid of any online leading or even currently acceptable practice. The overall look is so completely out of sync with the modern web that is it jarring and confusing," Ambrose said, suggesting that the best way forward was for the IFP to start from scratch.

On Facebook, the IFP has only 579 likes and scored the lowest in the Strategy Worx analysis.

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