For the politician, social media is not just for making friends but also a tool for propagating their campaign messages ahead of the December polls. Will the number of followers translate into the number of votes on December 7? Pulse writer Magdalene Teiko Larnyoh shares more insights.
We know of our traditional media (newspapers, radio and television) and the more recent, but ever-growing online portals.
But there is the kind of non-traditional media being utilised by these political parties, where candidates and parties can speak directly to voters.
Social media! On social media, you will find that the major political parties have a created a vibrant presence.
Recently when President Mahama got 1 million followers on his Facebook page he released a video thanking his followers and Ghanaians in general.
The presidential nominee of the opposition New Patriotic Party also has a vibrant page. So does PPP's Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom. You find their pictures and videos of campaign tours on their pages.
In 2008 and 2012 even though social media was present most political parties did not utilise it as they are doing now.
A media and politics analyst, Dr Etse Sikanku believes this year will be different.
“Social media has become one of the dominant media forces in the 21st century and obviously some politicians have adopted this means of communication in their campaign,” he told Pulse Ghana.
“It has always been the fact that the major or modern medium of the day has always driven communication and social media is the current dominant tool and you would expect that even within the political realm it is used for campaigning.”
One school of thought has been that the number of followers or visits to one’s social media page does not directly mean the person will win the election. Even though Dr Sikanku agrees with this thought he also argues that the vice versa can also happen. Speaking to pulse.com.gh he uses President of the USA Barack Obama’s situation as an example.
“In 2008 it was dubbed the Facebook election because he (Barak Obama) was able to use Facebook as a useful means of communication.”
The other argument has been that not all Ghanaians are on social media. Research by internetworldstats.com shows that Ghana has 7,958,675 Internet users as at June 2016 which is just about 29.6% of the population. 2,900,000 Facebook subscribers as at November 2015 with only 10.8% penetration rate.
Dr Sikanku argues that even though there are people from different demographic groups “any effective communication team would consider that or tailor the methods to meet each audience. That is why we should be a little bit cautious about making conclusions about the effect of social media on elections. It might work with a certain demographic group it might not work with another demographic group.”
Recently, President Mahama shared a picture that put a “playful” twist on his election campaign. And analytics showed the photos had a positive effect on social media -the picture gained Mahama, who is hoping for another term in office, 2,225,806 eyeballs.
Currently on Facebook the presidential nominee with most followers is President Mahama, followed by Nana Akuffo Addo and Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom.
Their vice presidential candidates together with other party members have been very active ensuring they propagate their party’s messages to the social media users.
In as much as social media is a great tool for propagating campaign messages, it can cause chaos depending on how it is used. This could be the reason why the Inspector General of Police John Kudalor threatened to shut down social media during elections.
Even though that decision has been rescinded, social media users must be cautious what they put up. This includes the politicians and other users who comment on their pages.
“The use of social media has been pretty impressive. There is a conscious effort by the parties to use this particular tool to win electorates.”
“Whatever information they put out there should be accurate, it should be checked, it should be double-checked. There should be a refrain from inflammatory languages. Social media is open the whole world is watching so the concern is that we conduct a very decorous campaign even on social media.”
Dr Sikanku is certain social media will play a role huge role in the 2016 election and the party that utilises it well is likely to be in power after January 7, 2017.