What does the public know about political campaigns?
I joined a discussion group of young men talking about politics. Their biggest complaint is that they feel politicians have inertia to change. ‘Those old men in Parliament will never change; they are persistent and will never step down.’ I listened with a keen interest and just to add a little mix into the conversation I asked them what they thought marketing meant when it came to political campaigning. The answers I got were in the lines of:
- Distribution of party branded T-shirts, Caps and flags
- Gathering a crowd of party supporters in one field and trashing the opposition then putting it on TV
- Getting the news paper to print features related to party events
- Carrying out a few Corporate Social Responsibility gimmicks to showcase in the media
- A truck loaded with dancers
Is this how political campaigns are done outside of Tanzania?
Kenya a neighboring country, one which we share the Swahili language combines traditional media with social media and they are way ahead. All of the leading presidential candidates (Uhuru Kenyatta, Martha Karua, William Ruto, Raila Odinga, Peter Kenneth, and Kalonzo Musyoka) have an official presence and are active on either Facebook or Twitter or both. Kenyan social media strategists believe that social media will play a key role in political campaigns and elections.
“That said, I believe this will be the first social media influenced election in Africa where candidates will be trying to outdo each other not only on the ground but online as well.” Marvin Tumbo
World wide Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was the first to truly recognize the value and potential pitfalls of using social media. His campaign focussed on reaching voters through email, text messages and the internet for organizing and fundraising.
“Obama was the pace-making politician in using social media but things have changed since 2008. One of the hallmarks of his 2008 campaign.Since then Twitter and Facebook have increased hugely in popularity and smartphones and apps are far more common. In 2012 it looks like Obama will be more expansive in how he uses social media to mobilize funds and supporters.” Diarmaid Byrne
Is it really true that the face of political campaigns in Tanzania is getting stale?
Change is inevitable even for politics. I cannot be more right. Just a few weeks ago I received an SMS message from CCM informing me about an event. This shows that political parties are shifting their thinking and embracing new media. Mobile media is becoming increasingly popular as a marketing communication medium.
The above example is just one instance. CCM and Chadema are going head to head in social media platforms. Both parties have twitter accounts, web pages and blogs. They are using these platforms to engage with their supporter through answering questions, sharing their campaign outcomes, blogging about the key issues they are solving as well as address attacks from oppositions.
Case Study : @ChademaTz Vs @ccm_tanzania statistics
In terms of influence Klout classifies both parties as Networker. That means that they know how to connect with the right people and share what’s important to their audience.They have a high level of engagement and an influential audience.
@ChademaTz - 4363 Twitter followers gives them a Klout score of 40 and they influence 439 others
@ccm_tanzania- 2109 Twitter followers gives them a Klout score of 44 they influence 556
What does this mean for political campaigning?
Both parties have a good chance of converting their social media supporters into brand ambassadors who would then work to promote the party offline and thus increasing their reach. Since social media is current and always up to date with news this will empower the opinion leaders by giving them confidence that they are always in the know.
What does this mean for companies?
The combined number of followers for the two political parties is above 6000. This shows that there is great potential for businesses with the right social media strategy to harness this new technology and influence a niche of opinion leaders who would then work as brand ambassadors through word of mouth increasing the brand reputation of a company’s products/services. People always trust people they know more than a stranger.
Care needs to be taken when propagating social media campaigns one careless mistake could result in embarrassing situations as in the recently trending @KoreaAir #PrimitiveEnergy.
PS: Follow the budget 2012 debate going on in twitter through the hash tag #BudgetTz2012
To follow some of the bloggers mentioned in this article @diarmaidb @marvintumbo