ArchiveBlog 12.1Published 12.1

Harnessing the power of social media

… New, web-based technologies may open doors of communication for politicians

Published in “Public Agenda” on July 9, 2012

Author: Kayla Albrecht

It cannot be ignored that the media landscape is evolving. With the arrival of new technologies, entire populations are moving online to participate in the newest trend: social media.

Social media are web-based and mobile technologies that create interactive communication between users while creating an online space for two-way dialogue between organisations and publics. Just as there are different forms of traditional media, there are a variety of social media platforms. From online communities like Facebook and LinkedIn to micro blogs like Twitter and Tumblr, social media popularity is increasing all over the world, and it’s leaving an aftermath of social change.

“Communication has changed fundamentally,” explained Kwabena Akuamoah-Boateng in a presentation during the STAR-Ghana “Elections Semi-Annual Convention” last Wednesday. Mr Boateng of Ghana Decides, a blogging organisation working to develop a more informed electorate for the 2012 Elections and funded by STAR-Ghana, continued by outlining examples of successful social media movements around the world while exhibiting the positive results of the Ghana Decides project.

United States President Barack Obama made campaign history by harnessing the power of social media to secure the presidency in 2008. Through strategic Facebook, Twitter and YouTube crusades, President Obama appealed to his country’s “Facebook generation” and captured almost 70 percent of the vote from Americans under the age of 25. Although every presidential candidate of 2008 was attempting to use social media, President Obama was able to open channels of two-way communication to inspire his constituents into believing that they truly had a voice for change.

Although Internet penetration in Ghana is still relatively low, it is growing at an astounding rate, jumping from 5 percent in 2010 to 10 per cent in 2011, a 100 percent growth as explained by Mr Boateng. With more Ghanaians moving online, the possibility of using social media during elections to promote voter registration, exhibit crucial election information and create dialogue with politicians looks bright. As more people move online, pressure is put onto political candidates to join the conversation and become more transparent in their platforms and campaigns.

Concluding Mr Boateng’s presentation, the small audience of civil society organisation (CSO) representatives, journalists and interested listeners participated in a discussion regarding the potential of social media in Ghana’s 2012 Elections. One crucial topic of discussion brought to the attention of the group: How regions with lower Internet penetration, like the Northern Sector, involve themselves in social media generated in Accra? Ghana Decides addressed this obstacle by offering a free social media training workshop in Volta Region last May on the basics of Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms.

However, you do not need to be a media expert to participate in social media. Begin your learning by signing up and seeing for yourself what new media has to offer. Once the power of social media and the synergy between its platforms is harnessed, there is no limit to the possibilities of outcomes.

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  1. Very interesting info! Besides Ghana Decides, are there any outside companies/organizations involved in giving direction on social media efficacy to the people of Ghana? I know that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a large philanthropy that generally are always working with developing countries in the areas of education & policy when it comes to technology; unsure if they’re involved though.

  2. I’ll have to look further into your question, Mr. Jones, and maybe even concentrate my research on social media efficacy while I’m here. Because of the low Internet penetration and even lower social media use, the field to promote online communities is very small. However, it has SO much potential. I predict that with exponentially increasing Internet use, increasing social media use will follow the same trend, and this would give rise to more groups like Ghana Decides.

    Regarding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from the looks of it, the majority of their work in Ghana is health related. I wonder if they new more about the changing media scene in this country if they would invest in media literacy.

    Great, question! I’ll keep you updated.

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