Parties miss the social media boat

A Saturday morning some time in March and my Facebook news feed reflects the passions of South Africans: sport, politics and polemic.

“It took Madisha being fired from Cosatu n Sadtu, n a black refuse bag, 2 realise unions must politically b non-aligned,” rants Home Affairs Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba against former Cosatu president Willie Madisha’s attempts to set up a non-aligned trade union. “Y havn’t we known ths truth ourselvz!”

Several Gigaba acolytes “Like This” post, agreeing that Madisha is a “fake”, “greedy” and a “hypocrite”.
One notes that for the unemployed Madisha “going hungry is a taumanting reality nd he shud ensure it stay away 4rm him”.

Aside from encouraging the sort of spelling which would cause a five-year-old to cringe, what has Facebook achieved for political parties in this election campaign?

“They are not using their presences on social media sites such as You Tube, Twitter and Facebook to full effect and to really engage with users, so the impact will probably be small,” says Matthew Buckland, blogger and’s general manager for publishing, social media and mobile.

Underlining this point is Mosiuoa Lekota’s Facebook posting on February 5 asking: “What does Cope need to do to win the coming elections?” Responses followed, but Lekota has not, as yet, engaged with any of them.

Buckland says the DA appears to have the most sophisticated online presence of all the parties, especially in its creation of an “Obama-like” network that encourages people to campaign.

Aside from Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile’s soporific updates about his speechwriting (which always draw enthusiastic responses from illiterates) and Gigaba’s whining about supporters demanding VIP passes for everything from rallies to funerals, the ANC has a site——with a strong mobile presence that encourages supporters to send in stories and suggestions for the election campaign.

“Cope are using micro-payments via premium SMSes to raise funds, much like Obama did,” says Buckland, “and they have a fairly good presence considering how new they are on the block. I’ve been disappointed by the ID’s online attempts because they were very early innovators, using the web and SMS extensively in previous elections, but haven’t really built on that for this year’s elections.”

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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