Social media is becoming an important medium for driving conversation in the modern world, so it is no surprise that political parties in South Africa are using it as an important tool for their election campaigning.

Social Media expert, Tebogo Ditshego says political parties cannot ignore the impact of social media in communicating with the potential voters.

With a large number of followers on twitter reaching nearly 2 million for the ANC, DA and EFF put together, he says it is important for parties to know how to use these new platforms effectively.

The latest social media user stats show that South Africa has 21 million users of Facebook and 7.7 million on twitter.

Ditshego says though Facebook has more users, Twitter is the preferred platform for political debate.

Some political parties’ take on social media 

There is also the issue of trolls, bots and fake news during elections, with  potential of diverting conversations or influencing users towards a certain narrative.

On the issue of bots, Democratic Alliance’s National Communications Director, Mabine Seabe says it is important for them to beef up their social media team during the election period to “fight” against these threats brought on by fake news.

Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson, Mkhuleko Hlengwa says South Africans must not take news on social media at face value, but should interrogate news from such platforms.

He urges citizens to be vigilant, “We are calling on South Africans to also exercise their own vigilance on these matters and just take time to consider some of the things before consuming. Because it is very easy at times to pick up something that is fake news or this is part and parcel of the broader national responsibility.”

Having been alerted on the threats and negatives of using social media, some say controversy stemming from these platforms regarding their preferred party would not sway their vote the other way.

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*ANC and EFF could not comment at this stage on their social media strategy for the upcoming elections.