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Social media trends around the elections

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Social media conversations ahead of the 2016 local government elections in South Africa reveal a growth of nearly four-fold over discussions about the 2011 municipal polls.
What’s more, if they are an accurate reflection of how South Africa will vote on 3 August, both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC) could concede some of their ground to the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) this year, says Andre Steenekamp, CEO of online media agency 25AM.
Data extracted from the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Social Studio by 25AM shows that there were nearly 22 000 social conversations about the topic between 1 May and 29 July 2016. Unsurprisingly, the ANC as the national ruling party, generated the most mentions, followed by the EFF and then the DA.
The ANC generated more mentions than the DA and the EFF combined, while the EFF was mentioned twice as many times as the DA.
Analysis of the data shows that around 50% of users who have indicated which party they will vote for said that they will vote for the ANC, 25,1% said they would vote for the EFF and 24,7% said they would vote for the DA.
The distribution of Internet access in South means that social media isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of how the country will vote, Steenekamp says.
The ANC attracted almost three times as many mentions with a negative sentiment as mentions reflecting positive sentiment. Positive and negative mentions for the DA and EFF show a more even split. Conversation about the ANC spiked on 21 June, when unrest started in Tshwane after residents were unhappy with the party’s choice of mayoral candidate for the metro. #TshwaneUnrest is one of the top five hashtags associated with the election.
The top influencers around municipal elections include official party accounts and leaders @helenzille, @Julius_S_Malema, @Our_DA, @My_ANC and media sources @News24, @SABCNewsOnline, @eNCA, @bonang_M. EFF advocate @Odwa_Obose is one of the top 10 influencers on Twitter, according to Social Studio data, with just 1 800 followers – an interesting insight into how social media is giving people a powerful platform.
“Increased presence on social media by the leading political parties as well as institutions like the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have helped to spark engagement about this election,” Steenekamp says. “The IEC has launched an iOS and Android app to make results and election info available to the public, for example.
“But it’s interesting to note that it’s not just media organisations and official party sources that are shaping the discussion agenda – it is millions of ordinary people using their smartphones and social media platforms to share their opinions, comment on unfolding developments and even report breaking news to their followers.”