ONLINE: QUESTION SHOWS OPPOSITION LEADER IS NOT MARKETING HIMSELF WELL ENOUGH
Published The Citizen (KZN) |
Malema has 3.6m followers on Twitter, DA leader has 167 700.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) may need to up the ante if one of the most Googled questions about its leader, John Steenhuisen, reads: “Who is John Steenhuisen?”
Ahead of this year’s municipal elections, digital analytical specialist Carmen Murray is peeking online to see what South Africans are asking, searching for and trying to figure out about the role players, large and less significant, on the ballot papers.
She says the DA may run into a few hiccups. “There seems to be a complete lack of visible strategy,” Murray said, adding that Helen Zille remains the most visible party personality online, both as content originator and object of a search.
“However, Zille may be a liability as the firing off random tweets, often controversial, tend to hang in midair and solicit mostly negative comments from the public. This is no way to engender support at the polls.”
The “Heleminator”, as she has now been dubbed online, Zille enjoys almost 10 times as many followers as the party leader on Twitter, with 1.4 million consuming her content.
“The fact that people don’t know who Steenhuisen is points to the fact that he is not marketing himself well, so how will people vote for him?”
President Cyril Ramaphosa has 2 million followers on Twitter, Julius Malema 3.6 million and Steenhuisen has about 167 700.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone is also still under online scrutiny for her education scandal earlier this year. People, said Murray, are still looking up her education, more than anything.
People are gatvol and had enough of politics and the circus it has become.
Carmen Murray Digital analytical specialist
Steenhuisen has become better known for blocking people on Twitter than much else.
The DA does appear in many online conversations, both tagged into and separate. A brief study of major talking points about the DA includes recent questions about the fact that most election posters seen, presently, are in Afrikaans.
Trending slightly lower than that is the notion that Zille is a racist and that she is using Trump tactics, while mandatory vaccination by the DA-led Western Cape is drawing arguments that it infringes on constitutional rights.
Zille is also still burdened by clearly not ageing “colonialism” comments – and there seems to be a growing consensus ditching Mmusi Maimane was a bad idea. “This could become a major blindspot for the DA,” said Murray.
The DA has the most searches online but there’s been a significant decrease this year in overall queries about politics, “which is alarming for the country”.
She added: “People are gatvol and have had enough of politics and the circus that it has become. Covid exposed everything that is wrong in South Africa and therefore no-one has a guaranteed seat in the upcoming elections.”
Murray believes if parties like the DA were to improve their performance, they would need to
make a bigger noise and talk solutions, not just bark at the ANC.
“DA-generated content seems rather vanilla, cute videos about getting to know public representatives in polished videos. Then, there’s the constant criticism of the ANC-led government. We have yet to see a surge of solution-driven thinking or soundbites that may make people believe and trust the party more.”
This, from powerful campaign messaging in 1998 where the Fight Back campaign won the DA the role of national opposition.
“But the time for showcasing its ability to govern came some time ago and we’re not seeing enough of it to make a positive impact in online discourse.
“The party should reconsider its entire strategy. It’s doing some good work in parliament but not enough is being said about it. Instead, its leader is unknown, Helen Zille seems to lead the party in all respects and, in response, the public has started calling her the Malema of the DA, too.”
There has to be a “greater, cohesive strategy and quickly”, added Murray. “And a quick online study revealed the road to nowhere. Quickly.”
She said that search data and social listening easily reveals these major gaps. “A few weeks ahead of an important election, you don’t want the electorate to mistake a former leader’s tweets as the party position, while asking who its leader is.
“The danger here may be that a decade from now, Twitter will ask: DA, who?”