DA reaction has me puzzled!


In my previous post I asked whether the DA gets social media.

Well I have been told by my twitterstream that the DA had a go at that post – but from where? not on the comment section of the blog where it was written but rather hidden behind a password protected website! so ironically the only way that I can read what they say about me and my post is to become a supporter of the DA, as this whole discussion has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with social media – I wont be doing that.

I am sure someone will copy and mail it to me, and I will eventually see what they said, but does it sound like they get Social? Not sure? well consider this as well.

I asked Helen Zille who has a profile on twitter @helenzille about the DA social approach on Twitter a few days ago before I wrote the original blog post but still no response. Maybe her profile is for telling not listening and she doesn’t want to join the conversation?

It is reported that when the DA launched their new site at which they announced “Our approach is to build a personalised relationship with the DA’s supporters by involving them in our activities and campaigns.” and their strategist stated that they aimed for “engagement with voters via social networking and in the blogosphere” but they invited a only a small group of bloggers.  Surely a social site would involve many of the influential bloggers in some way? The currency of social media is influence in networks.

Because social media is bottom up, it is about relinquishing control, if you want the networks to do the job for you you have to accept that they are in control. Obama did this. The Obama girl series of videos were viewed more than 60 million times. Did Obama feel totally happy about the content? its very unlikely, but he let it go because he understood what needed to be done and how this all works.

The oversensitive, overdefensive DA would far rather have a secret go at bloggers like me and Vincent Hofmann at moralfibre is that leaving it up to the people or is it just old fashioned political arrogance.

Well I think that my question has indeed been answered, the DA have copied the structures of the Obama campaign but not the ethos. Do the DA get social? The evidence strongly suggests that they don’t.

For those interested maybe you would also like to read this latest McKinsey Quarterly report titled “Six ways to make Web 2.0 work”

This is going to make for a really interesting case study.

Photo onkel_wart on flickr

Posted on February 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm by Walter Pike · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , ,
  • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

    Yeah. They are on the web, just a few years behind the curve. I think that they have missed a wonderful opportunity.

  • woganmay

    They've definitely got the online presence thing going, but as for true Social Media?

    By nature, we South Africans are a stubborn bunch. I'd imagine that in the upper echelons of the DA, when it was discussed whether or not to turn majority control over to the general populace (as Obama did), they decided that there was too great a risk of the political equivalent of “brand damage”, that they chose not to.

    Evidently, they already have their campaign and their message sorted, so they're most likely viewing their SM strategy as an extension of that, rather than a foundation.

  • http://www.imod.co.za Chris M

    I hear what you're saying Walter, but do you not feel that they should be given some time to learn everything. Imagine being taken right out of traditional media and thrown into lingo like twitter, tweets, retweet, poke, blog, pingback and so forth, you'd be lost wouldn't you? Not just that, but the fact that you're also incredibly busy campaigning for the elections.

    I really think that when non-tech parties/groups venture into the tech and social media space, they need to be given a little time. I attended a private press conference with the DA, where they announced the new websites and they were not shy to admit that they're still learning everything.

    Personally, I say we give them a chance to move into this space and with companies live World Wide Creative and LSDev behind them, I'm sure they'll be brought up to speed quickly!

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  • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike


    Sure. I have no issues with that, just that part of learning is accepting that you you have stuff to learn. The appropriate response then is to embrace the people interested enough to offer an opinion.

    Having a dig from behind closed doors – not really the way then is it?

    The entire social media thing is very much more an attitude change, getting people to make that transition away from the heavy handed one way communication model to embrace the idea of “voter” control.

    My initial point was that you cant just copy paste the technology, the technology is only a tool. What I would suggest, and its not too late either, is for them to get hold of some of the people that do understand and get them to explain.

    Your point about time is perfect, but now is the time to fix it, when its still early days.

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  • http://supercopygal.blogspot.com/ supercopygurl

    You, know I commend them for their effort, but I feel like they are spewing political nonsense at us through SM channels and I don't think they actually get. Also, I think its a bit too late for the Social Media aspect to pull significant votes. Aren't the elections in April?

  • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

    That is a very good point, a point that I had ignored. Sorry.

    Social Media isn't something you can just switch on – its not an advertising medium – especially when step one is to listen

  • http://shebee.co.za SheBee

    I must admit, I tend to agree with Walter. It's all fair and well admitting they're still to learn the in's and out's, Chris, but to totally slam down any form of critism? Not on.

    Another thing I wasn't totally keen on was their members only site. Why do I have to register to read? How is that “social”? Give and take, that is what this is all about. So far, the impression I get from the DA is that they're only hear to get their message out, not listen to the messages coming in.

    I'm truly disappointed, I was pom-poming along with the rest of their supporters as, lets face it, they're the best alternative to the ANC, but at this rate I might just let my registration go to waste and not vote for them in the election if this is the attitude they're putting out.

    Neanderthal? Maybe. At a loss of who else to vote for? Totally.

  • http://stii.co.za Stii

    Excuse my ignorance, but I don't see them doing ANYTHING wrong? They have a social networking site for it's members. Surely thats not wrong? The entire Ning is built around niche social networks. It was maybe never their idea to run a social media marketing campaign. At least that is the impression I get. Sure, they use social media tools, but they can choose how they want to use it, not so?

    Also, as you quoted “build a personalised relationship with the DA’s supporters”. They accent should fall on the DA's supporters. Therefore the “behind a password protected site”. Who is the strategist?

    As far as Twitter goes, well others said it already. I agree with them in that Helen might just be a tad busy with bigger problems than to worry about questions like what social approach they're going to have.

    Lastly, you say “behind a password protected website”. Well, now, you seem to forget that Facebook is not much different. Why lambaste them? Could it be a case that you don't understand their strategy? I know I didn't until I went and had a closer look.

  • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

    Thanks for the comments.

    I understand their strategy from the information available to me, and as reported.

    If their strategy is to create a tight knit closed group of supporters, rather than to maximise their supporter base then I guess that they are going about it the best way. Is that the strategy?

    I'm sure that all will be revealed at some stage. I'm looking forward to it.

    • http://stii.co.za Stii

      That is what they said as I understand it:

      “Our approach is to build a personalised relationship with the DA’s supporters by involving them in our activities and campaigns.”

      • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike


        “engagement with voters via social networking and in the blogosphere”

        You read it as a closed compact social network – I see engagement with voters via social network and the blogosphere as outward focused, in fact I see both as outwardly focussed.

        Wonder if the DA will comment.

        I have asked.

        • http://stii.co.za Stii

          They've done that. Justin Hartman and Chris Mills, two of SA's top bloggers attended and started the engagement. By the looks of it I would venture to say it has worked quite well! :) Lots of talk happening at the moment. Job done.

          Don't confuse their social network with getting bloggers to start a discussion. Two different things imho.

          One of the essences of social media is to let your supporters support you so you don't have to run around and get distracted by nitty gritty questions and rather focus on the job at hand. In this case, the elections. That has also happened for the DA. All in all, a very successful campaign so far.

          • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

            Just for the record, this debate started before the DA website launch and before Justin Hartman and Chris Mills wrote their blogs. Had nothing to do with the DA activity actually.

            I am talking about the use of social media. Not about the technology of social networks. Also the point was that the DA are targeting voters, which you interrupt, if I read your comment correctly are volunteers/contributors (the only people able to sign up to the site) and which I interpret as people who will vote.

            As far as I am concerned social media is about participation in the discussion, a two way dialogue, not a one way monologue.

            Lucky that there are different viewpoints. Life would be very boring if we all thought the same.

  • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

    I offer a The definition of social media:

    1 – social media describes the online tools that people use to share content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself, thus facilitating conversations and interaction online between groups of people. These tools include blogs, message boards, podcasts, micro blogs, lifestreams, bookmarks, networks, communities, wikis, and vlogs.

    2 – Social Media is the democratization of content and the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they share and create content for others to participate. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in a conversational format between authors and people.

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  • http://hitechmedia.posterous.com/ Darren

    Interesting post Walter. I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    The reality though, is that there *are* people involved in this project who *get* social media, in spite of the fact that the DA clearly doesn't.

    I know the developers who were tasked with this project. Good, competent and ambitious, they fit the description Walter coined “internet engineers” in his recent post:

    “The first are the technology people, developers etc. They understand the tools and can construct them into solutions, build beautiful websites, optimise the websites for search engine rankings and actually understand the algorithms that drive those rankings. I criticised the DA for this in an earlier post. These are the internet engineers.”

    But I'd also think that these guys understand and get Social Media.

    So the problem doesn't seem (in my mind) to be the advice the DA has been getting, or the competence of their developers.

    The DA's failings in *getting* social media seems to me to be reminiscent of the classic business failing when it comes to marketing and communications, in that many businesses simply pay lip-service to the whole exercise.

    Unless the 'ethos' of these conversations is understood and driven from the top down, the bottom-up conversations will never really happen, or at least never really happen in a way that maximizes their potential.

    Revisiting Walter's conclusion:

    “Well I think that my question has indeed been answered, the DA have copied the structures of the Obama campaign but not the ethos. Do the DA get social? The evidence strongly suggests that they don’t.”

    I'd agree. The million $ question though, is how do we help the *non-getters* … become *getters*?

    • http://walterpike.com Walter Pike

      Yeah, I took a lot of flak writing this, people got a lot too sensitive. I have no doubt whatsoever that the developers are highly competent and talented people. The point is that we get it in different ways.

  • http://www.oneafrikan.com/ oneafrikan

    Totally agree with you Walter – would all South African politicians please join the 21st century?

    I remember getting an email from the DA a while ago, which was wrong in some fundamental ways (tech, approach), so I mailed the 4 or 5 email addresses I could find in the email, to offer to help out for free, but got nothing back. Of course, the DA is swimming in cash and web experts, so they didn't need me, but a no thank you email would have shown me they at least checked their inboxes….now I dunno.

    Couldn't agree with your post more.