I joined Dumisani Hlophe, Jessie Duarte (Deputy General Secretary of the ANC) and Phumzile van Damme (Democratic Alliance National Spokesperson) on ANN7 last night, where we were discussing a tweet storm emanating from a Facebook post that was shared 2 weeks ago by Diane Kohler-Barnard – South Africa’s Democratic Alliance MP, whose screen grab ended on Twitter yesterday morning.
South Africa being the last on the continent to emerge from “colonialisation” called apartheid in just over 2 decades, the wounds are still fresh on the minds of previously oppressed Blacks, of whom I am one. Because of this, this section of the population – with over 70% contribution – reacts violently to any symbols that remind them of that era. In the case of the Facebook post above, there is mention of PW Botha, who was the second last Prime Minster of that era and who is remembered for having refused to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation process that was set up after the abolition of apartheid.
My part in the discussion was to share analytics and social networking insights. I am sharing the contents of my contribution in this post.
You can watch the video of the panel discussion here:
Diane Kohler-Barnard and her shared post were the most discussed subject on Twitter yesterday – for 10 hours straight from 7am to 5pm. The most trending related keyword for the first 7hrs was “PW Botha”, and #KohlerBarnard took over the number 1 spot in the last 3hrs of that duration. Clearly, discussion was about the post initially, and shifted to Diane afterwards.
For every 1 tweet, there were 4 RT’s/Replies during the trending period. Clearly, MP Kohler-Barnard stirred emotions with her shared Facebook post, resulting in an animated discussion that lasted for hours.
Linked to the engagement ratio above, there were over 1 200 contributors to the topic #KohlerBarnard on Twitter – that is 120/hour or 2/minute. This indicates there was a fair share of participation, and it was not restricted to a few individuals.
On average each of the contributors to #KohlerBranard has over 4 400 followers. This is not surprising as this topic attracted many influential netizens; including media (@City_Press), twelebs (@NtsikiMazwai) and the two biggest political parties in South Africa (@MyANC_ and @Our_DA). Even @SteveHofmeyer – the White musician who has come to be branded racist for controversial remarks he has been making on Twitter about the state of race relations in South Africa – got involved in the discussion.
My key take-outs
Social media has become an accepted part of discussion forums for issues of national importance.
Given that both the ANC and the DA – the two biggest political parties with a share of over 80% of the national vote between them – weighed in on this topic on Twitter, this validated new media as a key platform for discussion of issues of national importance.
Twitter is king of online amplification.
Given that Diane shared the post above 2 weeks ago, but it only grabbed headlines yesterday after someone put it on this microblog is testimony to this.
Apartheid is one of the hottest topics in South Africa to this day.
10hrs is a long time for any topic to trend consistently at number one spot for the full duration.
Majority rules on Twitter.
Here are 2 points worth mentioning with this take-out. First, Diane is not the originator of the Facebook post, Paul Kirk (a freelance journalist) is. Second, “PW Botha” was not the only mention in the post as shown above. However, the DA MP and the apartheid Prime Minister mention became the focus of the discussion and everything else about the post fell by the wayside. Effectively, the majority rule principle took effect, and all other voices were drowned out.
Reposting can be viewed as endorsement.
Leading from the take-out above, reposting can be viewed as endorsement, especially when you are a public figure. So be warned, you cannot be let off only because you are not the originator of the social post.
The $1 Million issue
Diane Kohler-Barnard responded to the tweet storm by apologising, and said she did not read the whole post by Paul Kirk before reposting it, and thus missed the part about PW Botha. My only response is that she should have known better as a public figure to read the post in full first, and it is not that long anyway.
As IOL aptly put it:”DA MP sorry but Twitter doesn’t care”