The Final Insight
ELECTIONS IN THE INTERNET AND ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
An online literature research based on 2014 Presidential Election in Turkey
THE FINAL INSIGHT
It seems that in Turkey, TV still occupies much of public sphere when it comes to affecting public opinion. Checking the Local Perspective, one can see that social media and internet activities find place majorly inside internet and social media again, and also a bit inside the press (newspapers). However very few of these content can reach TV. Also the initiatives to predict election results based on social media data in Europe and USA (as seen in the International Perspective) seem to be inconclusive in Turkey. To remedy this situation the political parties, candidates and even MPs should all be encouraged to own and utilize social media accounts as well as invite their supporters to follow them. This in turn might introduce more and more people to the SM and online content.
Moreover it seems that more initiatives to validate the authenticity of online content might be needed. As seen in the previous general elections with the alleged accusations toward various political bodies, or during Gezi events and the political turmoil afterwards, much of the online information resources still seem to be in question and TV seems to be the sole authoritative force. Thus it seems that more initiatives are needed that are like the Sources in the Local Perspective. These sources should;
- Work towards validating content (such as dogrulat.com)
- Work towards making online data more understandable and perceptible (such as olgusal.com)
- Focus on certain political aspects to make them easier (such as kabuledilmedi.tumblr.com, focusing only on law proposals)
As a final note, it should be added that civil initiatives to count votes and to confirm the safety of voting are only effective if they could be run all the way towards the end of the process (which previous initiatives like oyveotesi.org seemed to have failed to do so).
1) As a way to improve political new media strategies, as well as involving more people to take part in political activism/ “increase level of engagement and commitment” (J) these questions can be directed to new media activists/ professionals/ students inviting them to brainstorm collectively and share experiences (OyveOtesi'nin Ötesi)
- Are there any examples, experiences which would showcase social media as a driving force to create a movement/ campaign?
-How can the campaigns be personalized according to micro-profiling. (not just age, sex and socio-economic background but with more personalized profiling)
- How can social media led campaigns that are "urban centric" can reach out to masses and encourage participation ?
- How can parties be convinced that social media is an important and cost effective medium of participation?
"(The best way to scrutinize the effectiveness of social media is to look at specific forms of citizens’ participation and the role of social media in them)"
- “Nevertheless, it is difficult to measure the impact of the social media tools on the various initiatives. The numbers of followers or members can’t directly reflect the number of citizens that actually take part in these initiatives, or were influenced by these campaigns.” How can this be overcome?
- "Can video conferencing and group skype where everyone can hear what each says used as an effective tool?"
- Perhaps there is so much to learn from marketing comm.- “obeying the laws of the online social economy: Be transparent, led by the public, support communities, be interactive and engaged.(Nike)”
- To overcome government censorship, alternative ways to communicate (crisis plan) shoud be worked upon.
(“The social media platforms possess the potential to facilitate citizen participation; the constant demand for social justice, social accountability and good Governance by the citizenry comes across as a threat to some Governments. This has caused some regimes to commit to regulating and restraining these spaces, a move that could possibly threaten the right to freedom of speech and expression. Where citizens have used social media to mobilise protests, the communication tools have been blamed by authorities for facilitating and encouraging treasonable behavior through sustaining protests, resulting in pervasive anti-social-media.”
“For campaigners the early easy wins have gone. There is now an overabundance of campaigning organizations. The problem is not weak ties, the problem is too much noise.
Recognition is needed of the limits of media effects. You can organise, inspire and catalyse but in the end it is about a political task of converting passivity into activity through emotional and intellectual argument, that is prepared to challenge consensus, orthodoxy and power.”)
- How to create ethical & effective online social campaigning communications for development
- How do you campaign for a cause in an age when there is so much competition for people’s attention and when the challenge is to get people to do more than click their support?
"It’s vital that anyone doing advocacy – especially online – understands the wider media context and the specific conditions of digital networks".
2) Reaching out to politicians without time for self-education: "New Media - enlightment- in a nutshell"
"1. Because of digital and social, media is now environmental – like air and water – and everyone is now a media producer and all organisations are now media organisations.
2. This enables advocacy organisations to connect with supporters in ways that can potentially broaden and deepen those relationships and make them more effective.
3. But this new environment demands a new ethical approach to communications – for campaign messages to work they must be transparent, interactive and open.
4. This phase of media change is developing rapidly and will continue to evolve but it is already mature – the gains are limited and your real task is to get your strategy right, not to adopt lots of new gimmicks."
3) New Media Stratgies for political party leaders (first task for Turkey is to convince the party for communication consultancy in "new media" *)
"Creating a social media strategy for use during political campaigns has become an essential part of every candidate’s plan to get into office. With social media sites often getting more traffic than an official campaign website, *it’s important for candidates to get connected.
*Candidates create simple to digest posts that can be easily retweeted or shared
*This type of campaign marketing is much different than creating television commercials, as the politicians can create social media posts quickly and easily to react to news and reach out to voters, whereas making an advertisement is a much longer process.
*Political Campaigns Connect With Voters
Having the ability to see the political views of family, friends, and peers can sway a person’s vote."
More on new media strategy...
By analyzing the data collected by Comm.720 group, both international and local resources have indicated that social media proved to be a game changer to a certain degree at political elections. There is no doubt it contributed to shifts in the political landscape that are potentially enduring. The post-election climate is usually a challenging one for the ruling party. Although social media was not a decisive factor in election results, it was successfully used by various political parties to bypass mainstream media restrictions.
In most cases, however, the new breed of politicians globally are learning to use and manipulate social media in the same way that generations of politicians have done alike with other media. The challenge for the political leaders in Turkey, however, is whether they are capable of making this leap with the context of a more assertive and dominant mainstream media existing in the country.
Turkey’s first ever direct election for presidency will be held in August of this year. Social media is likely to play an indecisive role in the coming election, but it does join the election as a non-negligible factor.
Social media provides politicians and citizens a new platform for communication. This new platform holds the potential to increase citizen involvement in political life, especially during election campaigns, due to its certain characteristics such as ease of use, accessability, directness and speed. Social media becomes especially important for smaller parties or less-known candidates who face the risk of being bypassed by mass media filters. The fact that social media makes direct communication with political candidates possible may prove to be a useful tool in increasing the personal appeal of a candidate. Social media may be utilized in various ways during election campaigns; to convince the undecided citizens or to mobilize the supporters of candidates. The internet and social media have become alternative sources of political campaign information. Social media enables political communication in alternative ways due to certain characteristics:
Bypassing mass media filters
Social media allows political candidates to establish direct communication with the citizens. The control of the content is in the hands of the political candidates, thus decreasing their dependency on mass media channels for the evenly distribution of their messages.
Influencing mass media
Social media enables the creation and distribution of a candidate’s own content, thus enabling the specific story to be heard. When social media is utilized to raise an issue, react to a story or give a response, the message has the potential to reach many citizens and influence journalists in shaping their news.
Political campaigns may encourage citizens to create their own content in support of a party. The authenticity of user-generated content becomes a powerful tool in getting the message across, in spite of its downfalls such as contradicting with the original message that the candidate wants to put forth.
Monitoring the view of voters
Social media provides a channel for politicians to monitor the tendencies of the public regarding certain issues during election campaigns. The posts of citizens have the potential to provide invaluable insights for politicians.
There are ways in which social media proves useful during political campaigns such as micro-targeting, supporting offline events and personalization of political campaigns.
Social media may be used effectively to target certain groups. Successful use of social media and the internet, including blogs, tweets, e-mails, text-messaging and search-engine advertising may provide a channel to reach specific target groups. The fact that people are influenced more by their friends than by complete strangers also make social media a powerful tool during political campaigns. Tailored messages may reach masses through social media at much greater speed and for a much smaller budget in comparison to the cost of conventional mass mailings.
Social media proves to be an effective way to mobilise people to organize and attend political events that place offline, in the real world. It becomes possible to communicate a certain event and encourage citizens to spread the word to increase participation in that event.
Social media is also important because it provides the politicians the opportunity to establish direct rapport with the citizens, thus bringing the emotional factor into the equation. By placing the emphasis on the individual politician and focusing on personalities and personal relationships, social media aids in the personalization of the political campaigns.
The most important aspect of social media is its network effect, which is the multiplier effect it enables through networks of communication for individuals. The social media is a powerful tool to get tailor-made messages across to masses of people and serves to complement mass media. Even though television remains to be the primary channel of communication during election campaigns, social media is becoming increasingly effective in ways that the mass media is unable to provide.
Reference: Davies, Ron. Social media in election campaigning. European Parliamentary Research Service, 2014.
It is obvious that Turkish elections need more transparency when it comes to vote counting and election covering etc. That's why online tools to demonstrate misconduct seem to be more necessary than others. With different news agencies reporting different results, electricity shortages and "tutanak"s getting lost it becomes more and more important to visualize this data so that people can use it for proof should there be any suspicions.
Also, although online platforms got more and more active with every election, mobile platforms need to be integrated more as well. Since Internet usage tends to rely on mobile devices more and more, omitting mobile will become a big mistake in the future.
Combining online and offline
Kılıçdaroğlu's mayoral campaign ("Kılıçdaroğlu diyen...") in 2009, was effective in catching young audiences. By letting people design and customize their badges and stickers online and then sending them via mail; they achieved in incorporating digital and non-digital, which is a good way to increase visibility. Therefore, combining both online and offline worlds is a major tool for political campaigns. Staying only in the online world can only reach a certain number of people.
Another successful aspect of that campaign was the inclusion of bloggers and social media users, through avatars and banners that showed their support in a fun way. The aspect of "fun" should not be forgotten when reaching for the youth in the online world. Also, people who have a strong influence (bloggers, twitter celebrities, online opinion leaders) must be included in the campaign.
What makes a video viral? It is the fact that one wants to spread it to others. Therefore, in order to achieve the maximum viral effect, the video must have a striking feature that would make people want to share it. This is a must for all content on the web that has the aim to go viral. The viral videos that reach high sharability has one or more of the following features: Fun, emotional, sexy, interesting, harsh, honesty, real... This has to be taken into account when creating viral material for political campaigns.
As of now, when we analyze the web videos for political campaigns it is hard to see a video that has that "it" factor (except until this year's videos that created quite a buzz on social media with AKP's over-emotional flag video and CHP's "Hayat Bayram Olsa" fun and honest singing candidates). See Iceland's Best Party's 2010 campaign video for another good example, here.
Suggestions for applications:
During vote counting:
- A hashtag will be chosen for instagram and twitter. This will be used with photos demonstrating election misconduct. The photos using the hashtag, can directly go on to a web site (as in the example Electiongram) to have an archive of these instances.
- An online vote-meter that shows the results from different news agencies side by side (AA vs. Cihan). The differences between two news sources can be demonstrated visually.
- Map of electricity shortages showing information on when, where and how long.
- A meter such as the Mursi meter to weight the promises made during pre-elections vs. whether or not they are kept afterwards.
- An interactive map (Foursquare, google map or an independent map app), such as NBC's interactive map here where NBC partnered with Foursquare to cover campaign trail ("The candidates will be given access to unique widgets that track their individual campaign; these can be embedded on their website. Supporters will also be able to see exactly where their favorite presidential hopeful has been making appearances.")
This map can be used to show where candidates are talking, which city they are headed etc. along with headlines from the speeches they have given in those cities.
Gökhan'dan (In Progress)
Research and Surveys
Surveying Online and Integration of the Data Gathered Through Online and Offline Methods
To understand the effect of social media on voters' decision making process, we need reliable surveys analyzing the drives and motivations of voters in general. However it can be claimed that there is lack of credible projects studying political behavior in Turkey. Because of this luckless, the generalization made based on considering solely offline data may lead us misconceive the interaction between online political behavior and the reflections of them to the elections. There are various companies conducting surveys which help political parties to build their strategies during their campaigning period. Some welkin ones of these companies in Turkey are KONDA, SONAR, Gezici Araştırma, GENAR and Konsensus. Particularly, they forecasted -considerably- correctly the shares of the first three parties (AK Parti, CHP and MHP) in all votes in the elections on March 30th.1 The data for these surveys was collected through face-to-face offline meetings. Thus, it is clear that the usage of new media (e.g. conducting online surveys) to collect information about the voting behavior of the voters is too limited. There are some websites conducting surveys and serving polls online such as secimanketi.tv, secimanketi.com.tr but the forecasting of these online surveys were far away the real shares in the election on March 30th. Thus, we need credible online services (projects-surveys) which may also use twitter, Facebook integration to conduct surveys and produce reliable knowledge about the voting behavior of Turkish citizens. Additionally, the research and consultancy firms should analyze the differences (or discrepancies) between the data gathered through online and offline methods and conduct a standardization study to eliminate these errors. In the end, they might converge the information from different sources.
Mobile Application to Ensure Reliability of the Elections
During the elections on March 30th, some services were introduced to the citizens to enter and compare information while the vote-counting process was going on. One of them was the initiative of CHP: http://sts.chp.org.tr/ But, the technical features of this system were quite limited, in the end caused some crashes endangered the stability of the service. In addition to this, the interface was not useful enough.
As a solution, we can suggest political parties and NGOs to provide service to be used by all -ordinary- new media users easily. This service should be integrated into different devices and platforms. There was nothing about mobile devices in sts.chp.org.tr. One part of this service should be in mobile platforms. There may be an application which can stably work in iOS, Android and Windows Mobile platforms. The most convenient way to invite citizens to contribute in information gathering process during elections is using mobile devices. During the elections on March 30th, one notable project was the “minute searching service (tutanak arama servisi)” in twitter: https://sandik.irfancikoglu.com/ But, this service gathered the data from CHP's database which was not well-stable.
The application we suggest may use QR coding technology to ensure authenticity of the minutes. Here, NGOs may organize a campaign to force Supreme Board of Elections to get minutes printed with QR codes. By using the mobile application on their smart phones and tablets, citizens can capture the QR code of the minute and then enter the data on the printed minute to the form in the application (or directly capture the form with QR code and upload the image to the servers of the application). To realize this system, we need reliable and strong servers of which costs may be funded through an independent charity or a fund-collecting campaign.