The incidence of social media on the Latin American political Arena
We are living in an evolving digital world, where we have boundless access to information and insights from all across the globe. Channels spread, and the online population can connect to a vast number of different platforms to share content and interact with others.
Social Networks are the key players on the digital landscape and they keep demonstrating their importance on every online campaign. The political arena is not excluded; social networks have become a place where political conversation and debate occurs, especially during campaign season – they offer a vehicle for individuals who are passionate about certain issues to share their thoughts with others.
These new arenas of political discussion have drawn attention not only among political activists, but also reached other segments, as we’ve mentioned on our recent report about digital-activism in African countries.
Perhaps is not a coincidence that as social networking continues to grow, so does the online population engagement with politics.
Latin Americans are highly engaged with social networks across the region. It is not only the level of penetration that social media accounted for during the last years, but also the steady increase of time spent per user. In fact, 5 of the top 10 most engaged markets in Social Networking are located in Latin America (Source: comScore Media Metrix, Social Networks, June 2013, PC Only):
People are constantly bombarded by waves of information on their digital timelines, enticing them to click to explore further, to look for the information that is relevant to them. The speed at which communication travels has evolved to fit the demands of our lifestyles.
Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have transformed the way news are generated; not only journalists and reporters are creating stories on-the-go, but also the general public is actively involved in this process as never before.
There are over 500 million Twitter users estimated worldwide (i.e. the number of existing accounts – Twopchart estimate, Twitter won’t say). Saudi Arabia accounts for the largest penetration worldwide at 51%, followed by Indonesia (49%), The Philippines (39%) and Turkey (39%). In the Americas, Mexico accounts for the highest Twitter penetration at 35%, followed by Argentina (31%), Brazil (24%), USA (20%) and Canada (18%) – more on this Global Web Index report.
Politicians in Latin America might be considering these channels to successfully run their campaigns: 7 of the top 15 political figures worldwide in Twitter are Latin American. Surprisingly, the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has secured the #4 spot, closely followed by his rival Henrique Capriles, with 3.6 million followers (source: Social Bakers):
Political campaigns on social media: key points
Real Time Engagement: Social Networks enable both candidates and voters to see real-time reactions. On-the-ground campaigning might still be an effective strategy, but it is not viable for all parties on every region. The social networking campaigns are intense, and need to be 24/7. While planning, one must be aware of the constant changing political environment and we need to be prepared to post on the fly.
You need to be extremely careful about the content and the way you communicate, since these real time tools reach thousands of people and can go viral in the blink of an eye. A strategy that can be helpful or undermine your campaign is the usage of live Twit Cams. Having the opportunity to watch candidates live is greatly valued by voters, but at the same time, you need to plan for contingency.
Transparency: Connecting with candidates on Social Networks reflects the voter’s experience of meeting a candidate and engaging with him or her in person. This interaction requires a great degree of transparency from the candidates, since their speech can be verified on the spot.
Going Viral: The chain reaction resulting from social sharing give candidates the opportunity to reach millions of people who were unreachable in the past. Conversations occurring online are bringing us back to the type of discussions that candidates would only get going door to door in the past.
Think about what happens during the so-called “Mexican Spring” in 2012, with protesters’ #yosoy132 hashtag going trending topic worldwide, and president Peña Neto getting involved in a huge Twitter crisis.
Twitter and Facebook Trends: Trending topics help to see what subjects are moving people to participate. The ability to see where the conversation is going, allows candidates to manipulate their strategies considering public opinion.
Measuring and Monitoring: Real time measurement allows you to respond on the fly and demonstrate your engagement with your followers. These are some popular social media monitoring tools used by Latin American agencies that are currently running political campaigns: Hootsuite, Topsy Pro, Crowdbooster, Radian6, among others.
Ana Laura Zain