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Sunday, September 04, 2016

Elections in the age of Social Media






By Tope Adebola
Through a series of straightforward steps, audience members at the Social Media and Elections workshop were encouraged to devise their own social media coverage plans on the spot. Facilitated by Penplusbytes executive director, and new Highway Africa Fellow, Kwami Ahiabenu II, audience participation in this workshop was at peak level right from the start.
In a newsroom, some of the stages ofimplementing a social media coverage plan successfully are defining anaudience; evaluating what tools to use; and, monitoring progress and takingcorrective action.
“Now, I want you to give me examples of the use of social media in elections,”
Ahiabenu said, opening up the floor for further audience input. Ahiabenu spoke in an edifying manner, a teacher accustomed to conducting training sessions and mentoring people. His tone was warmly rhetorical, “one of them is the ability to, what? Connect with the candidate,” Ahiabenu said, exemplifying the value of social media in elections from ordinary people’s perspective.
He then proceeded to divide the audience into three groups, and gave them free rein to brainstorm their own social media election coverage plans.
The outcomes of the group work were fairly uniform, showing how relevant and applicable such phases in social media planning are. The group comprised Pearl Majola Nigel Mugamu (263chat.com), Georgina Asare Fiagbenu (Senior Corporate Communications Manager, MTN Ghana), and Yandisa Sobahle (Rhodes University), and had particularly keen insights to share about WhatsApp and its application to crowd sourcing.
Ahiabenu cautioned. He had the room chuckling at a spicy example of just how wrong these WhatsApp groups can go. Apparently, a rogue WhatsApp group member once posted a pornographic image on an ultra religious WhatsApp group, causing a near collapse of years of friendships.
Mugamu countered that WhatsApp groups can in fact be self-regulating because they determine the topic, a time limit for discussion, and most members adhere to these informal rules.
“That’s interesting, that’s a well behaved group,” Ahiabenu laughed.
The general consensus was that the interactivity and practical nature of the workshop’s content were the highlights of Ahiabenu’s afternoon session.



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