Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Members of the social media teams of Pakistan’s major political parties said on Wednesday digital platforms were extensively utilized in the lead-up to the general elections tomorrow to influence young voters, as experts pointed out that politics and social media had become inseparable in today’s Internet age.

According to Pakistan’s election commission, young voters constitute 45 percent of the nearly 129 million electorate this year. To connect with around 73 million social media users, political parties and independent candidates leveraged digital platforms to convey their messages and sway potential voters.

This trend was particularly evident in Imran Khan’s Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which frequently complained of a lack of a level playing field, citing the arrests of its leaders and supporters in recent months that led to restrictions on its public gatherings.
As a result, the PTI relied on virtual rallies by utilizing social media platforms and, for the first time, used artificial intelligence (AI) to disseminate messages from Khan, who has been incarcerated in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi.

“To counter abductions and arrests, we initiated virtual gatherings and rallies that began from Dec. 17,” Jibran Ilyas, a key member of the PTI’s social media team, told Arab News. “These proved highly successful as many of our leaders had gone into hiding.”
He said one of the significant innovations done by his team was the use of AI to spread Khan’s message, adding it captured people’s attention in the country and was also appreciated by those living abroad.

“We used the AI technology to replicate Khan’s voice, which was highly successful, as people were eager to hear his message,” he continued.

Ilyas called the last few months a “period of adversity” for his party, though he maintained that the PTI’s digital innovations were vital to rejuvenate its supporters.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khan’s rival political faction, was not far behind when it came to the use of social media forums.

“In this election, our primary target audience was the youth, particularly the approximately 22 million new voters who were added to the electoral list,” Abubakar Umar, a top member of the PML-N’s social media team, told Arab News.

“Therefore, we concentrated on digital platforms to connect with them, recognizing their preference for social media over newspapers or television,” he said, adding his party had placed greater emphasis on digital outreach ahead of the elections to highlight its achievements during the previous tenures.

“We made a concerted effort to enhance our social media presence,” he continued. “The feedback from our supporters had been encouraging, reflecting that our efforts were successful.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) digital media head, Sharjeel Inam Memon, said social media was also a key part of his political faction’s election strategy since it provided a valuable way to communicate directly with the people of Pakistan.

“It is particularly important for young, urban voters who are regular social media users and don’t always read newspapers or watch evening news bulletins on television,” he told Arab News.
Memon said the PPP used social media platforms to communicate with two key audiences.
“On the one hand, we used platforms like Facebook, TikTok, X, Instagram and WhatsApp to speak to [our party supporters], giving them information about events happening near them and opportunities to become part of the campaign,” he informed.

Other than that, Memon added, it used the social media to share messages of hope and help with struggling people in different parts of Pakistan.

Nighat Dad, executive-director of the Digital Rights Foundation, said all political parties had heavily relied on the Internet technology to promote their agendas and campaigns.

“Digital campaigning holds immense value, which became obvious during the 2024 elections, as platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are increasingly utilized by millennials and younger demographics,” she told Arab News.

“This diverse approach to election campaigns across multiple platforms has garnered sympathy for suppressed political parties and significantly influenced voter mindsets,” she added.
Asad Baig, who founded Media Matters for Democracy, maintained many people believed social media operated in a separate realm, disconnected from real-world politics.

“Pakistan boasts nearly 72.9 million social media accounts, a significant number compared to registered voters in the country,” he noted.

Baig told Arab News the majority of these individuals potentially engaged with social media in some capacity.

“Social media platforms, in particular, play a crucial role in influencing the opinions of those who are not firmly aligned with any specific party or ideology,” he continued, adding that this sizeable demographic presented an opportunity to sway voters, making social media narratives an invaluable tool for garnering support.

Source: Arab News

Comments are closed.