South Africa’s top 3 political parties by number of parliamentary seats won in the 2014 national elections are the ANC (249 of 400 seats, or 62% – also the governing party), the DA (89 seats or 22% – main opposition party) and theEFF (25 seats or 6%).
As the 3 graphs below show, the top 3 political parties also have the largest social network communities, using by Twitter followers as a primary metric and Facebook followers as a secondary metric.
Remarkably, the EFF has the largest Twitter community of the top 3 political parties. This political party is also not far behind with Facebook followers either.
Do the Economic Freedom Fighters, the Johnny come lately of South African politics, have a better appreciation for the power of social media because of the average age of top leadership that makes them the country’s youngest political party?
I shall explore this question further in this post and in Part 4 of this series.
So, how are the top 3 political parties using social media to compete for share voter’s attention?
This is the subject of this post. I shall be using Twitter as a social media proxy to find the answer to the question.
RELATED POST: In South African National Elections in Numbers – Part 2 post I ask: Exactly how many of #SAElections2019 registered political parties have online presence?
Tweeting activity by top 3 political parties
I curated and analysed a random sample of 87 000 tweets with hashtags #VoteANC, #VoteDA and #VoteEFF.
The curated tweets were published in the last month to 10 April 2019.
Here are the results:
The 2 graphs above show that the #VoteEFF hashtag received the most mentions. Retweets were the main type of tweeting activity.
For more understanding, let us see how many times the published tweets for the specified hashtags were seen by the Twitterverse:
In summary, #VoteEFF was mentioned in 42% of the tweets under review, and received 52% of the exposure (also referred to as Impressions).
What messages have been disseminated with the 3 political party hashtags under review?
I ran a word cloud exercise based on the curated 87 000 tweets to answer the question. The results below are revealing.
The font size of a each word in the cloud graphic signifies the frequency of its [word’s] mentions.
The results of the word cloud analysis show that the ANC and the DA talked a lot about each other in the past month. The EFF seems to have kept the focus on its drive for the coming #SAElections2019 on the 8th of May.
Let me explain the finding above. Here are the 3 non-ANC words that appear in the #VoteANC word cloud:
- 🔎 Herman Mashaba – the current DA Mayor of Johannesburg,
- 🔎 Solly Msimang – the DA candidate for Gauteng Premier in the coming elections, and
- 🔎 Mmusi Maimane – the DA party leader.
Furthermore, Lesufi, who’s name appears in the #VoteDA word cloud together with GautengANC, is the ANC Member of The Executive Council (MEC) in Gauteng. Notice how small MmusiMaimane appears vs Lesufi in the main opposition party’s word cloud?
The examples above support the finding that the two main parties have been focusing on each other’s businesses. It is the norm that political parties the world over tend to point out each other’s failures and misdemeanours in a bid to woe voters. This has been the case with the handling of the most recent Alexandra service delivery protests. Is this a good thing? 🤔🤔.
Analysis of the top 10 contributors to each of the 3 political party hashtags
Below are the results of the analysis of the top 10 contributors for each of the political party hashtags. Note that Exposure is the main measure.
- @helenzille (DA Premier of Western Cape Province) and @HermanMashaba (DA Mayor of Johannesburg) are in the #VoteANC list. @MbalulaFikile (ANC Head of #SAElections2019 Campaign) is in the #VoteDA list. This supports the word cloud finding about the two parties.
- Notably again, the top 7 #VoteEFF contributors are all high-ranking Fighters. This also supports the word cloud finding. While @Julius_S_Malema also appears in the top 10 lists of #VoteANC and #VoteDA, his top 10 rankings across the 3 lists make it clear that his focus is his party affairs.
My analysis shows that the EFF is on the money with its social media campaign for #SAElections2019, leading to #VoteEFF being the best performing hashtag ahead of #VoteANC and #VoteDA.
What can the two main parties do to change their fortunes on social media?
- 🔎 They must stop focusing less on what other is doing and more on their individual voting strategies; and
- 🔎 They must get as many of their top guns participating in the dissemination of the campaign messages on social media as possible.