Until a few years ago, the ascension of politicians into power relied heavily on TV, Radio and of course print. Then the worldwide web came and websites became a platform to know the candidates more. All this was until the unexpected ascent of social media.
A lot of this is attributed to the bold move by then candidate Barack Obama to announce his candidacy via social media, hitherto overlooked as a platform where young people gathered to discuss the trivialities of their lives.
What social media brings to the table is an opportunity for everyone to have a say in global conversation. It has done this by demystifying the role of the traditional media as the gateway for information. With social media, the user has control of the medium and can readily give and receive information. The social media user by contributing can decide what conversations are important enough and make them trend.
Today, we will review some politicians who we believe have used social media to build a relevant and responsive following to their own ends.
#1. Muhammed Buhari – Rebranding change
The 2015 election campaigns marked a shift in the history of electioneering campaigns in Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria.
More historical was the win by Muhammed Buhari, a retired military general who had failed to in his bid to clinch the top seat in the land in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
A win that is attributable to the role of digital media PR which was coming to play for the first time in Nigeria’s political history.
For Mr. Buhari, whose first sojourn on the thrown was unpalatable to the people, digital media PR cleansed his battered public image and gave him a new garb of sainthood and messiahship that swayed voters into dropping their votes to his favour.
In the end Mr. Buhari beat the incumbent and unprecedentedly won the election to become Nigeria’s president.
#2. Donald Trump – The unifier of the divisive
Trump is believed to be the first to successfully galvanize a strong force of Americans dissatisfied with America’s status quo a la’ Obama. With a simplistic messaging as easy and as powerful as social media chatter is, Trump turned ‘Make America great again’ into a movement. Stirring up his following with Twitter reports proven and unproven, Trump appeared to appeal to a demographic wallowing who felt they were losing a grip on power.
Leading to the 2017 US presidential elections nearly half of US citizens and people of other nations supported Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s opponent.
But then, the digital media came to the rescue.
In the words of Brad Parscale Trump’s director of digital during the electioneering campaigns, “Facebook campaign enabled us to raise up to $280 million from grassroots supporters . But, in turn, a lot of money had been spent on advertising on the social media platform, allowing the Trump campaign to compete with Hillary Clinton’s Democratic campaign.
“When Donald Trump became the (Republican) candidate we didn’t have any money other than Mr. Trump’s money and I don’t think he wanted to write that check all himself… We needed to create a grassroots campaign and we needed to go out and find millions of people to be our supporters and Facebook allowed us to do that in alarming numbers, very fast,”
In the other news, ongoing investigations on the 2016 US presidential elections suggests Russia meddled in US elections using the digital media to swing votes in favour of Mr. Trump who won the elections.
#3. Barack Obama- The gatherer
Many call him the pioneer of social media in politicking. If there were any elections where the digital media came to play in full force, then the American presidential elections of 2008 that saw Barack Obama become president was it.
The Dragonflyeffect.com described Obama’s 2008 campaign as, “The first political campaign in history to truly harness the power of social media to spread the word, garner support and get people engaged.”
How did he do it?
Mr. Obama hired industry experts like Facebook’s co-founder, Chris Hughes, Joe Rospars founder of Blue State Digital a digital strategy and technology firm and Kevin Malover, founder of Orbitz.
Together with their team these three built a strong online presence for Mr. Obama’s campaign activities.
2.5 million followers on Facebook, 112,000 on Twitter and 18 million YouTube channel views which was many times higher than that of his then competitor.
With his online activities Mr. Obama was able to raise $500million for his campaigns. He went ahead to win the 2008 elections and also got re-elected for a second term in 2012.
#4. Nana Akufo Addo – In the people’s voice
The now Ghanaian president is famous for being the first individual in Ghanaian political history to defeat an incumbent in a democratic presidential election.
Haven unsuccessfully ran for the Ghanaian presidency twice in 2008 and 2012, Mr. Addo engaged the services of Nigeria’s State craft, who had previously helped bring President Buhari into power.
As aptly covered by Christoper Opara, digital media PR played a major role in Ghana’s 2016 elections and Nana Addo was the biggest gainer winning 94.35% of total votes cast.
#5. Ben Murray Bruce – An activist at the table
Known in social media circles as the #Commonsense senator, Nigerian media mogul Ben Murray Bruce is another politician helped to a political throne by digital media PR.
Prior to Nigeria’s 2015 elections where he was elected a senator, Mr. Bruce massively deployed the social media for his campaigns.
Majorly sharing his common sense themed messages that attacked the ills inherent in Nigeria’s political system and society, and also shared his plans of how to tackle them.
With his style of digital PR, Mr. Bruce quickly won the goodwill of majority of Nigerians and the electorate in his home state Bayelsa which earned him a seat at the Nigerian senate.