Social media emerges as smart electioneering tool -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Social media emerges as smart electioneering tool

Pakistan Press Foundation

ANWAR KHAN

Social media has emerged as a smart tool in Pakistan’s electoral history, which parties are phenomenally using for electioneering but with a limited reach to the countrywide electorates. Analysts believe the social media is growing as an attractive tool for political parties’ daily activities and a cheap medium of communication to propagate against rivals and publicise their motives.

However, they rule out the fast emerging social media websites could take over the traditional mode of electioneering like displaying of banners and posters at least for now. “Social media attracts prompt response from the public,” said Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) deputy director information, Riaz Siddiqui.

A freelance journalist and blogger – Akhtar Baloch, says “If political parties have anything unique or interesting then users will definitely pay attention to their postings on social media.” However, he points out the social media conveys information, propaganda and publicity faster than any other traditional mode of communication. “However, social media will take time to become an internal feature of politics in the country,” he added. But, he cast doubt whether political parties will be able to invite public attention to their agendas as Pakistan’s huge population is still unable to switch to social media for electricity shortage and internet non-connectivity.

Patterns of the global political drive are still traditional as political parties in the developed world use placards, banners, signboards etc, for their drives to galvanise support for them, Baloch said. About feedback from users, Siddiqui says “users give their feedback through comments which may be positive or negative to the postings on social media”. He said the JI media cell continuously monitors the feedback and omits the abusive remarks but “leaves the criticism intact if made in a decent way”.

The political parties post their daily activities, pictures of their leaders, public gathering, invitation, reactions to rival parties’ actions, propaganda etc. There are also sites on social media which are used as proxy against the rival political parties to malign their leadership.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) claims to have a biggest base on social media accounting to some 70500 likes on Facebook alone. It says it has one million supporters on Facebook out of its total 7 million memberships. Nearly all mainstream political parties have their social media cells to continue their effective drives. These parties created free-of-cost pages on Facebook, accounts on Twitter and share clips on video-based websites.

However, the JI official thinks the traditional way of political campaigns will continue in the country’s electoral system. Siddiqui says it is difficult to focus only political drive through social media as rural population still needs presence of their leadership amongst them.

“The use of social media is not going to cut costs of political parties’ drives which they incur for banners, placards, party flags, holding of public corners meetings etc,” he says. Pakistan has over 8 million Facebook users, which accounts 27.66 percent of its total online users and 4.37 percent of its total population, says an online monitor – Social Bakers.

According to Social Bakers site, the dominant group aged between 18 and 24 has the largest base with over 4 million on the Facebook. The second biggest group is aged between 24 to 25. If growth in users’ base in Pakistan is viewed, the statistics suggest over 1.383 million new accounts have been created for Facebook in the last six months. Users on twitters are also close to 2 million in the country, the online statistics indicate.

News and personal blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Youtube, Dailymotion and such other video-based sites have become a key feature in political parties’ propaganda and publicity drives in Pakistan. Such social media sites could easily be updated and used through smart phones, laptops and PCs through any internet broadband connections from any location. Analysts say the social media is a significant tool in the modern day activities, however, in Pakistan it is an additional medium to TV and radio channels. The social media’s impact has yet to be seen in coming days in the country’s politics, Akhtar Baloch says.

Source: Business Recorder


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