AS Malaysia gears up for its state elections, the impact of social media on the political landscape has become more pronounced than ever.
From reshaping campaign strategies to altering voter behaviour, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram have emerged as powerful tools in the electoral process.
In Malaysia’s rapidly digitising society, social media has revolutionised political campaigns and voter engagement.
Active participation on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram has become crucial for politicians seeking to connect with constituents and shape public opinion.
However, the question arises: Will politicians who are not active on social media be left behind?
As the digital divide widens, politicians who fail to embrace these platforms risk missing out on reaching younger and tech-savvy voters.
Social media has become an indispensable tool for disseminating information, organising campaigns and mobilising support, making it essential for politicians to understand its power and leverage it effectively.
Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli’s previous engagement on social media demonstrates his recognition of its importance in connecting with voters and advocating for his policies.
Although he has become more subdued these days in comparison to his pre-election activity, this might be due to several factors. It is worth noting that political dynamics and strategies can change.
While not everyone may be technologically savvy, key figures like PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang and former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak, too, have recognised the importance of social media in their political strategies.
Hadi may not be IT-savvy himself but benefits from the support of individuals who help manage his online presence.
Similarly, Najib has utilised cybertroopers to bolster his online presence and amplify his political messages. These examples highlight the significance of digital engagement in contemporary political landscapes.
This underscores the significance of having a digital team to bridge the gap for politicians less familiar with social media platforms, ensuring they remain connected to their constituents in the digital age.
Drawing from Thailand’s political landscape
Thailand provides an interesting example of social media’s influence on political landscapes.
The country has witnessed the transformative power of digital platforms, with political campaigns heavily reliant on social media for mobilising support, organising rallies and amplifying messages.
As Malaysia navigates its own state elections, the Thai example serves as a reminder of the need for political actors to harness the potential of social media strategically.
Not to mention, during the 15th General Election, Perikatan Nasional made strategic use of social media by hiring numerous tech-savvy youths to promote their campaign. This demonstrates the recognition of the influential role played by young voters and the need for targeted digital engagement strategies to secure electoral success.
Bridging the digital divide
Active participation on social media has become a prerequisite for politicians, as it allows them to connect with constituents, share their policies and respond to public concerns.
While challenges related to misinformation persist, social media’s impact cannot be ignored.
Collaboration with digital experts can enable non-IT savvy politicians to leverage the potential of social media and reach a broader audience, fostering meaningful connections with voters.
As Malaysia approaches its state elections, politicians must recognise the power of social media and navigate its complexities to effectively engage with voters and shape the democratic process. – July 12, 2023
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