When Barack Obama became the first African-American to earn the honour of sitting in the Oval Office as the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s largest, most sophisticated military, local journos wet their pants in anticipation of what Obama’s victory via his social-media strategy would mean for South African politics.
I had crafted a 3 word blog-post response to this. It read: “It means nothing.” But there were more tantalising events to blog about so the post went begging.
Now however, it seems I should have posted after all because the ANC has decided to launch itself into the social media space.
Here’s why the ANC’s social media strategy means nothing. The obvious flaw in the plan is that currently the majority of the ANC’s constituency probably doesn’t have access to social media channels. These channels require bandwidth, WAP-enabled phones and the money to pay for them. And let’s assume that WAP-enabled phones are prevalent throughout the country; what number of the ANC’s constituency know how to access the web via their phones…or even that the ANC has a social-media site? What’s needed is an education campaign, an on-the-ground, get-your-hands-dirty social marketing campaign.
Text message updates are great in lokshini, because text-messaging (especially “Please call me’s”) is big in lokshini. And kudos to the ANC for adding in the text-message update service…but at R1,50 per message? That’s a lot of money to people who don’t really earn a lot of money. It doesn’t make sense to tax the people you are courting for supporting you.
Obama’s strategy worked because his consituency were educated and economically-empowered. They had unfettered access to blogs, to Twitter,to Facebook, to mobile communications, to digital gaming platforms… Can the same be said for this country?
So who is the ANC talking to? I have no idea. And who’s listening? I have no idea.
But the single biggest reason that the ANC may not succeed is simply that the brand experience doesn’t live up to the brand promise. Time and time again the ANC has played out the “Animal Farm” scenario – controlling the message and its dissemination. Social media cannot be controlled. And I don’t think the ANC understands that. I don’t think they realise that social media will do more harm than good if your house isn’t in order. Your mistakes and your cover-ups will get spotlit and amplified. Sure the PR-monsters will spin and obfuscate like all politicians, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.
This isn’t politics anymore. This is marketing. And there’s even less room for error.
By the way: I’ve signed up for email updates from the site and will be keeping a close watch on the forum. It should, at the least, be interesting.