PNG Politics & the Facebook War for Votes

In March, I highlighted on The Garamut that the PNG 2012 National Election will be the most important election in our nation’s history due to two key reasons:

1) the crucial yet fragile period of time in our development as a nation-state which we currently find ourselves in; and

2) the participation and influence of Papua New Guineans before, during and after the election through social media networks.

I again raised in April the importance of social media when I argued that social media is helping to drive a new socio-political phenomena in PNG by opening up our people’s consciousness as a result of pipol pawa, social media and technology.

Since then, I have documented how Papua New Guinean politicians are using social media to actually campaign, and followed this up with the publication of the PNG Politics Social Media Directory – a compilation of PNG candidates and political parties on social media which is updated daily.

When examining the usage of social media by PNG candidates and politicians, Facebook is by far and large the most popular platform used.

This isn’t surprising, as statistics show that Facebook penetration in PNG is 1.57% compared to the country’s population and 77.90% in relation to number of Internet users. Furthermore, the total number of Facebook users in PNG is reaching 93,480 and grew by more than 20,240 in just the last 6 months.

Of the 46 registered political parties contesting the 2012 National Election, only 9 have active Facebook accounts. Of these political parties, there have been two particular parties that have managed to effectively use Facebook thanks to professional communication consultants – the People’s National Congress (Peter O’Neill), and the PNG Party (Belden Namah).

But in the race to be the most popular Papua New Guinean political party online, some interesting developments have been observed.

Of significant interest lately, has been the considerable growth in Facebook ‘Likes’ that the PNG Party has managed to accumulate over the past few days, especially when compared to PNC and other political parties – and more importantly, the demographics driving this surge:

As mentioned above, and pointed out by one of my Twitter followers, it is indeed odd that the PNG Party’s Facebook ‘Likes’ have grown by 440% in the past five days and most notably from the 13-17 years old age groups.

This is all the more surprising because the age distribution of Facebook users in PNG shows that the 13-17 years old age groups comprise only 15% of total internet users, with the lion-share 75% represented by the 18-44 years old age groups:

Presumably, because the PNG Party has the most ‘Liked’ Facebook page, it would be logical to assume that the most popular age group ‘talking about the page’ would represent either the 18-24, 25-34 or the 35-44 years old age groups.

This certainly is the case for People’s National Congress Party’s Facebook page, which has drawn its main support from the 18-24 years old age group.

Similarly, the People’s Movement for Change Party also demonstrates this correlation by drawing its main support from the 25-34 years old age group; and so too does the Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party.

A similar relationship is demonstrated by Robert Agorabe’s (the PNG candidate with the most ‘Likes’) Facebook page, whereby he is drawing most of his support from the 25-34 years old age group.

So why are we seeing an incredible turn-out of support for Belden Namah’s PNG Party from the under-represented and politically apathetic 13-17 years old age group?

~ by Tavurvur on June 19, 2012.

6 Responses to “PNG Politics & the Facebook War for Votes”

  1. From what I’m seeing I think the facebook pages with the older following are more the middle class. So it’s people that are making a decision on policies and understanding the message of the facebook page owner.

    PNC’s lead is coming from a younger generations reaction to the way he’s done his marketing on TV, print and radio. In other words his advertising comes across as a smooth, polished ‘Digicel’ type advertisement which the younger population until now have only seen from a Digicel campaign.

  2. ….another thing with PNC and PNG Party, they have had extremely busy national schedules, travelling to almost every single Province in PNG. Their physical presence throughout the country and the media slight leaning towards covering them more in the majority of cases would help their FB numbers.

    • Fair points Manu. Obviously, 13-17 year olds can’t vote, so although they are driving the ‘popularity’ of the PNG Party online, I’m not sure what effect this will actually have when it comes to polling.

      No doubt their comprehensive campaign schedules as also helped them in terms of connecting with the Facebook users throughout PNG as well.

  3. Presumably the goal for the FB campaign is to extend the reach so that they reach their bottom line of getting more votes. Ironically, the majority of those reached that proceed to liking their page are the ones who are not eligible to vote in this coming elections! Perhaps a relook at the strategy to reach the right people and get them to LIKE.

    • ‘Jay’ – I think you’re quite right. The election is not at all like Christmas, where continued marketing to kids does have some effect on consumer trends, i.e. – kids pressuring their parents to buy them a certain present.

      Politics doesn’t work this way in terms of attracting votes, but PNG Party’s message is indeed getting out amongst the populace. Quite possibly, their influence with this younger group may bear some fruit down the road in the 2017 Election.

  4. Kids are on facebook more nowadays. You wont see me spending millions to gain facebook likes thats for sure. Especially when the target market is not being reached.

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