When you are a political party hoping to attract a large following, Social Media is perhaps the best way to achieve this. After all, it’s so easy. All you have to do is equip a few willing youngsters with computers, a twitter account and basic knowledge of the English language and you’re all set to take over the Pakistani Social Media world by storm.

Or so you think.

What if you begin to attract all the wrong kinds of followers?

What if those followers are abusive, ignorant and downright stupid?

What if you’re valuable supporters begin threatening and abusing anyone and everyone who says anything remotely critical to your party?

What if a large majority of these followers have no idea “how” you will bring “change” when asked?

What if these loyal supporters lack the capacity for a logical argument?

What if people start to hate your party not so much because of who you are but because of how your supporters treat them?

What if your ratings with the actual voter bank begin to fall?

Scary,eh?

That is exactly what has happened to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). If you ask any Pakistani on Twitter (those with no political loyalties) what the most annoying phenomenon on social networks is right now, an overwhelming majority will answer “Abusive and ignorant PTI supporters.”

With 129,976 (and growing) followers on Twitters, 193,624 likes on Facebook, PTI is perhaps the country’s largest political party in Social Media Land. Heck, they even have their own line of branded revolutionary T-Shirts.

PTI t shirts

Of course they still haven’t beaten Pervez Musharraf who towers over them with 435,513 likes on his Facebook page. But that’s another story for another time.

PTI is, undoubtedly, one of the best examples of a Pakistani political party dominating Social Media so completely. There has been no other party with such success when it comes to engaging people on SM platforms.

However, PTI is also an example of how NOT to do SM in Pakistan.

With so much power, comes great responsibility. PTI’s young supporters, its most important and powerful tool, are backfiring. I’ve witnessed threats and abuse from PTI trolls to people on my Twitter timeline; rude and disgusting comments on Facebook pages; personal and sexual attacks on YouTube; all this from PTI supporters who claim their “hero” is faultless and thus consider it almost blasphemous to criticize him.

Reasoning and logic have no place in the world of these blind supporters and most people just end up hating the party more than the ignorant supporters.

What went wrong?

So what exactly happened? How did this whole social thing get out of control?

 

tweets from pti Pakistan
A tweet from PTI account about abuse

Social Media is not just a few kids with a Twitter and Facebook account. Handled incorrectly and without a plan, Social Media can be your greatest enemy. You cannot jump into Social Media expecting that things will automatically streamline themselves and endow you with Lady Gaga-like powers. From the beginning of PTI’s SM campaign, there is no sign of any strategy or plan. First mistake.

Because there is no SM strategy, there is also no code of conduct for its campaigners and supporters. People are free to say what they like and to whom they like. Second mistake.

There has been no public reprimand from the party leader despite increasing concerns over PTI supporters’ behaviour. The leader is, in most cases, the person supporters follow through both verbal and non-verbal communication. When a leader uses rude language and takes cheap shots at opposing individuals, is it any surprise that the supporters will follow? Third mistake.

Perhaps, my friend Anthony Permal puts it best, “ Far from even having a knee-jerk reaction to any issues on SM, PTI instead defers to let trolls and supporters further exacerbate the situation, waiting for its demi-god IK to make a statement or make a decision.”

The fourth and last mistake was handing over the SM management over to biased and unqualified people. In the Pakistani context, the mind of an average politically motivated person cannot take criticism. Endowing such a person with the power to control your SM campaign is actually a dumb thing to do. Again, I’ll quote Anthony since I think he said it better,

“The person responsible or in charge of your SM campaign internally (PTI member) NEEDS to be a person who has considerable experience in consumer marketing and /or PR management. If you want to win this war, hire the most experienced soldiers, right?”

There is still time for PTI to mend what has been broken by poor decisions and unplanned campaigns. Otherwise, the party’s most powerful support might just become the reason for its downfall.

Disclaimer: This is in no way a political post. It is meant to be a short case study of wrong Social Media use in politics.

 

36 comments
faisalkapadia
faisalkapadia

Tell me how a pti supporter who abuses on the net will be different than that in real life. The screen gives you anonymity but does not change your inner nature. Which is bound to come out sooner or later.

Sooner or later this will grow into a militancy wing. Awab and the others have good intentions lets see if they can control it. No other party could do it.

Ahsan Soorani
Ahsan Soorani

"We want Imran Khan to be the Next Prime Minister of Pakistan" has the highest likes of over 442,000.

wqs
wqs

That's is indeed great post without being politically bias. Many people have experience this phenomenon and its getting worse with the increase in popularity. Its commendable the we are having such vigilant political participation from the section of society otherwise quite alienated from this political sphere.

But as a nation generally, and in this case particularly we loose out patience quite easily and can't wait to things happen. I guess PTI team should as a matter of policy propagate the need of being calm & composed. Political movements are not carried on social media and also take their own toll if there is some originality in it.I am afraid if this arrogance is not managed, it could backfire to PTI, once they go into real politics of constituencies and parliament.

Ammar_Haider
Ammar_Haider

@RababKhan It is a nice post from the neutral point of view but as @teethmaestro is saying that, trolls are trolls. You can never control them. Unless you are hearing this abusive comments from the official pages of PTI or official Twitter account then you should highlight it. PTI is not responsible for any individual who getting carried away in SM.

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

THIRD - you talk about leadership not providing the right guidance - Dr. Arif Alvi on November 3rd posted this on his facebook wall "https://www.facebook.com/Dr.ArifAlvi/posts/10150361791938063

"In victory, what suits your leadership and us workers is a sense of humility before God and his generosity towards us. This has to be shown in our attitudes towards other people also. The Chairman and I have received complaints that some of our friends are being rude on the social media and in other forums. People hate arrogance and misbehavior. People hate being proven wrong too. It is fine to say we told you so.. but when said with an attitude of superiority it pushes people away and then they become jealous of our success. Be polite and courteous always."

should be enough to answer your concern - while the latest SANA BUCHA's show is worth a second look http://youtu.be/syVuH2AJeq0

FOURTH - when you talk about handing the regins to an inexperienced bunch of people - I shared above, this is the youth, this a passionate volunteer of Pakistan tehreek-e-Insaf which passionately believes in the cause - it has the power to stay up ALL NIGHT and ALL DAY moderating forums, moderating facebook, creating videos, creating blog post, responding to twitter messages and managing hundred of emails that are sent to insaf.pk. This is the future of Pakistan, these volunteers have developed into experts, which to us are million times better then any company that you would tell me to hire for a couple of thousand dollars a month if not more. PTI could have spent on the social media and im proud to say NOT A SINGLE PENNY was spent on this platform yet we have a very orgnaized team, who carefully moderates and respects the overall party strategy as if it was its OWN.

It may be well considered to brainstorm a greater strategy and that to which we have been hard at work, fruits of which you will see bear fruit very soon, while hiring of an overall expert to guide the team :) requires $$$ - when we come across someone who can help us, id be the first person to appreciate his importance, do update us if you have any particular name in mind

The overwhelming misconduct issue you see emerge came only after 30th October, it is when suddenly the status quo realized the threat - the backend core social media team is THE SAME the people have not changed - the trolls are NOT from our party volunteers - that said Im also not claiming that we wont make mistakes, we might, but if you do notice something offensive by the PTI official facebook pages or twitter accounts please alert us to it - we would like to guide them on how to be careful - official accounts are ptiofficial. and FOUR facebook pages listed on the Left column on insaf.pk

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

Rabab allow me to address the four mistakes that you allege on PTI

FIRST Mistake you mention: PTI Twitter and facebook accounts are managed by a large group of volunteers, and not hired professional - inexperienced possibly, but for the past 6 years these stalwarts have held our fort together - when the party was nothing, they may have made mistakes and overtime they have learnt to become very responsible leaders in their own right - to hire "experts" my honest opinion is the moment you PAY someone to do something in Pakistan it falls by the wayside - there is NOTHING more powerful then a passionate volunteer who believes in the cause, ANY DAY ANY TIME I would rather have a volunteer monitoring our PTI pages versus taking chances on a "company" to sell our product ... !!! ???

SECOND you allege at our conduct: LET ME assure you there is a very strict methodology for people managing our twitter and facebook pages, they have learnt and developed protocols and strictly abide by it, MISCONDUCT I can assure you is NOT done by any of our team members, they do debate and they do argue but have kept ALWAYS within the boundaries of decency & respect [if you have any particular incident then please update me] - you cannot possible accuse us and generalize misconduct as a party policy how can we be held responsible for what each 50 lac facebook users from Pakistan have to say about anything and everything, we simply cannot be held responsible for EACH AND EVERY user or for that matter a troll who adopts Imran khans picture as his DP or has PTI in his name... you must know and accept that there are TROLLS and I would not be surprised if the trolls are paid to defame other parties. but either way, 5 million users have the right to say what they want and how they want, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf CANNOT be held responsible for their actions and neither can we discipline each person on Facebook into a discipline - had we started doing that the same righteous crowd that is screaming against misconduct would start a cobweb of theories that we are CENSORING !!! Damned if you do damned if you dont

waseemijaz
waseemijaz

Ms. Rabab, first of all thank you for this write up, this is really a serious and important issue, PTIsupporters need patience to listen to criticism against IK ans PTI, because I believe healthy criticism is always good to improve yourself.

But you also have to understand some points here, first as a nation, we lack patience & a don't know how to do a logical discussion, try to differ with someone on the street, you will get the same kind of behavior, and it also reflects on social media, in fact, they become more aggressive here, coz they know no one can beat em up here.

Secondly, common people do what their leaders are doing, I don't need to tell you what our so called leadership has been doing on TV talk shows. So how do you expect sensible argument from a commonperson here.

Ms. Rabab, how can you judge me, which party I support If I just come here and start abusing you, I know you will assume me a PTI follower but who knows I'm other party's supporter and just to give bad name to PTI and IK I'm using these dirty tactics. From last two years I'm on a discussion forum and after this PTI jalsa I have witnessed how suddenly other parties' supporters emerged from nowhere and started talking about their parties. and funny thing is many of them would start like I was a huge supporter of Imran, but now I have realizedthat, etc etc. but their later posts give you exact idea what exactly they are.

Now about the PTI followers, see most of them are frustrated and fed up with the old lot of leadership. They see Imran Khan as hope who is honest and trust worthy, and they want to give him a chance, so when they see someone criticizing him with no reason, they resort to misbehave, but personally, I don't approve this behavior and always try to stop if I come across someone misbehaving.

AAnd believe me this issue is not only with PTI followers, I have been abused on another party's facebookpage just for criticizing their leadership (it was in no way abusive or trolling) , they did maa behan ke galiyan and the admin of the page was just ignoring it despite my request to ban that guy. I had to delete my comment and after that I just stopped commenting there because i can't withstand this ignorance.

Regards

Waseem

RaiMAzlan
RaiMAzlan

@RababKhan you have a much needed post i hope it reaches to the right audience and it can be taken positively.

i remember when i met Carlos Cahsman he said that what ever you are doing on social media in terms of social media marketing or campaing it must have a goal on the other end of the pipe line.

exactly that is something missing with almost all the political parties who are in SM race in Pakistan especially PTI. very well written.

and I must say all the best for the trolls you are going to face after this now :P (just to clarify i am not threatening you because of my political affiliation).

rawahk
rawahk

very well written @RababKhan , i am not anti PTI too but you see it comes from top, i hate it when even IK calls names of leaders of other parties tu followers tu khud hi abuses tak aa jate hien ..

nvdo
nvdo

Indeed! this is good and healthy critique and PTI needs an improvement. I'm totally agree that they need some experience people to support the IDEAS/Campaigns initiated by PTI. And for a logical debate we always need a remarkable patience. Hope to see improvements in this area too as many things changed in PTI from last couple of years :)

But I am quite stunned that why people are not highlighting the abusive behavior which is using against IK.

XIApk
XIApk

How can PTI can control young ppl on SM? u cant control the reaction of thousands of ppl.

so young generation react to news related to IK.... Infact there are more abuses against IK on FB but no one comment upon tat.

so u cant control so many ppl n there thought not the fault of party

shobz
shobz

Excellent Post Rabab! You have expressed the irritation most of us feel when PTI supporters start harassing me and my friends for criticism of IK. Unfortunately IK supporters hero worship him and are unable to take any criticism. I believe that criticism is healthy and it helps a lot in the longer run. I feel sad that we can't criticize without being attacked by PTI trolls. I recall the day they started abusing me and my friends for no reason. This is one reason why I will never support IK or his party. I don't hate him but I hate his trolls. I am all for a civilized debate on twitter but it is sad that they don't want to hear the person's point of view.

WasiJaved
WasiJaved

That's something unique take. Though I'm not supporting any party but been on social media and bit aware of the way political parties using social media. Agreed with your analytical take on it and hope political parties of Pakistan especially PTI have a look on it and fix the things sooner than later.

zeeshanqayyum
zeeshanqayyum

Seriously good piece.Couldn't agree more.PTI is getting all its moves wrong, trying to engage with one and all for all the wrong reasons and surely in every inappropriate manner feasible.Then again,the PTI "leader's" larger than life image doesn't exactly help the situation;it makes matters worse!Totally agree with you,these cheap tactics will dearly cost the party in the long run.There's gotta be a stop to all this mess.Unfortunately,we can merely hope for the better.Let's just wait and watch.

Again,really nice effort.

Josepf
Josepf

@rababkhan Rabab, very interesting article. Not being from Pakistan I have not been following this Social Media stream. Looking at it from a completely outsider point of view I have to say that one way or another Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is making a mistake. It looks like they are trying to get away with ignoring the Trolls instead of stepping into the conversation. This shows they truly do not understand Social Media or the power of it.

From the outside I would conclude that they either do not care (big mistake) or they actually are endorsing the Trolls tacitly. If they want to counter this perspective they have to take a leadership position. If they want to be country leaders you'd think they'd figure out how to do that in 140 as well. :)

-- best Josepf

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@teethmaestro "a passionate volunteer of Pakistan tehreek-e-Insaf which passionately believes in the cause" and begins abusing anyone who doesn't believe in it.

Thats the difference between passion without knowledge/expertise and passion with knowledge. Is there not a single person in the millions of PTI supporters who is truly experienced in SM?

There should have been a well-planned strategy well before jumping into SM. That's the core reason for all this mess.

"It may be well considered to brainstorm a greater strategy and that to which we have been hard at work,"

I'm glad to hear it. I hope you will take into account all the mistakes so far and how best to rectify them.

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@teethmaestro Doc, SM companies are there for a reason. They KNOW that your brand is very important, they know what brand management entails. They will not turn into grammatically incorrect incoherent babblers when someone criticizes their leader and neither will they start abusing people.

How hard is it to moderate a FB page? Very much.. But when you have a huge reputation and a name like IK to protect, you make sure you're doing it right.

My sympathies tended to sway in PTI's favour and this was meant to be an honest objective view of things from the SM point of view. When you jump into an area, you have to at least listen to people successfully working in it to give you advice, right? Perhaps when so many people working in SM are telling you almost the same thing, there is some truth to it all? Would you not even look into it?

Assuming that whatever you are doing is right and you can do no wrong is a hint of a very arrogant mindset that I, personally, would not like to see in the party I wanted to vote for.

The attack from PTI suppporters did not start after the Lahore jalsa. it was very much a reality even before that and I am personally witness to it. On the day of the jalsa itself, i tweeted in favor of PTI almost all day long. A simple tweet asking what was announced in IK's speech ( i had missed it due to some work) brought an avalanche of PTI supporters with rude remarks and abusive tweets using the #PTIJalsa hashtag. and i was not the only one subjected to it. Why did no one from the PTI leadership say anything to reprimand them? When i talked to some of them and advised them how their abusive language could harm their party, some actually apologized. Why couldn't someone from PTI have done that talking?

This is just one example.

How much time would it take for IK to tweet or talk to his supporters on FB and tell them he doesn't like their behaviour? If he talks to them, I'm sure, as crazy as they are about him, they will listen. Do you know people think PTI is becoming the MQM of Punjab? Why do people think so?

Instead of trying to support bad decisions perhaps a bit of introspection and looking back at what went wrong would be a better way to mend this issue.

This was an attempt to help PTI. If you don't want help and take everything anyone says as criticism, well then, that just proves my point further.

Regards and thank you for commenting on my humble blog.

Rabab.

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@waseemijaz Those cases are not as widespread as those of PTI followers. Perhaps that is because PTI is the only party with such a huge fan following and they seem to be everywhere. Don't you think it would be wise for the leadership to rein them in before they cause greater harm to the party?

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@RaiMAzlan This isn't meant to be a political post. I have NO party affiliations whatsoever. This is just an honest analysis of the SM campaign and how I would like to see it being improved. It was honestly meant to help them. :)

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@rawahk That's the point. I think IK is an educated person, someone who is planning to bring "change". You can't do that if you start acting like "them."

A leader is someone who cannot behave like the ordinary person. He needs to be careful about his words and actions especially when he knows there are thousands of immature kids following him.

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@nvdo As i said before, this is not a political post. it is only meant to be an objective analysis of things as seen from the SM perspective. PTI is the only political party that has been so successful in using SM for their campaign. As such, it has made mistakes and also done some good things. I'm all praise for PTI in being Pakistan's first political party to use SM in their campaign. Kudos to them for that.

At the same time, they also serve as a good example for others about what not to do in SM. :)

XIApk
XIApk

@WasiJaved Its not how political party is using its that there was so many ppl already on SM who started following PTI... Party cant control there comments simple is that its ppl's own choice.

PTI fans on SM are not like those PMLN accounts who started posting after 30 oct jalsa who abuse IK way more than any 1 else.

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@Josepf I'm not a PTI hater or anything. Meant this piece to be an objective look at things from the point of view of SM. :) Your comment means I haven't done such a bad job of it. :D Thanks for the comment.

Ars
Ars

how many parties have such a online presence ???

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

@RababKhan@Ammar_Haider Rabab - many parties face the issue of wayward supporters - who had armed themselves with "guns" there is a difference here - PTI will NEVER subscribe to creating a militant party - to compare and equate the offline wayward thugs to online wayward supporters is comparing apples to organes - please dont :)

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

@RababKhan ""a passionate volunteer of Pakistan tehreek-e-Insaf which passionately believes in the cause" and begins abusing anyone who doesn't believe in it" AGAIN you are assuming that everyone who partially defends Imran Khan is an official representative of PTI - my argument stands - you cannot control what a certain user says for and against anyone - if you dont like him BLOCK him, report the ABUSE, mark it as SPAM - unfreind him.... its your right to define who you talk to -

PTI cannot take the responsibility of the "passion without knowledge/expertise and passion with knowledge" logic - its a moral character issue with each individual - to ask PTI to be resposnible to set right everyone attitude is .....

we may agree to disagree .. thats our right, even here and even on facebook & twitter - we may have a heated debate, that is my right, and your right to respond - if my language gets beyond your limits - its YOUR right to BLOCK me. thats the reality of internet 2.0 - blocked I shall be, but will it reform me? thats up to me to decide - not you to dictate

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

@RababKhan lets be clear - I presented my point of view - I did not deny your criticism but when discussing you need to hear my point of view as well and i presented it as such. Please do not assume that anyone debating your point of view is negative - I see your post as constructive criticism.

I also did accept that "we will make mistakes" and we do not claim to be "always right" we are human

Yes we are entrusted with an immense responsibility to harness the youth that beleives Imran Khan as a hero, but to assume that everyone will obey each command is wrong [many will] to assume that no one means to put the party in disrepute using trolls is also wrong - many opponents are using this excuse to lash out against PTI

The Insaf Social media team must only be held accountable for it "official pages" which we monitor quite aggressively - deleting many abusive comments on a daily basis [on both sides of the argument] there is zero tolerance

The debate you had on the day of the pti jalsa - you cant possibly lay the onus on PTI - passionate as they might be - the context of the words used can escalate - im not justifying it, but merely want you to realize that if a heated debate happens over dinner in a restaurant you cant possibly accuse Imran khan or PTI for it - on the online sphere this is everyone's right to say and do as they want - when and if we start censoring people, the same people scream CENSORSHIP... and so on so forth - damned if you do damned if you dont - but atleast ON our pages we have the right to block anyone for abusive language and we do precisiely that - but I cant control the rest of facebook or follow a presonal thread that may go sour on your status update or twitter timeline

we are trying to pacify the situation but I agree more of it needs to be "visible"

teethmaestro
teethmaestro

@RababKhan my blief is - that our campaign remains ok - they only problem is as the popularity increases - free-loaders latch on to PTI bandwagon and they can easily sway the discussion to the negativity it has recently become

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@teethmaestro We are having a debate right now, and so far, neither of us has resorted to abusive language. :) And I don't think we will.

But what I am more concerned about is, how did this get so out of control? Would you agree that this an unprecedented case where someone's SM campaign got out of hand because of its followers?

RababKhan
RababKhan moderator

@teethmaestro Thank you for taking this as constructive criticism, that's precisely what it was meant to be.

i would sincerely like to see PTI emerge as the party that learnt from its mistakes and rectified issues as and when they arose. Being the only party in Pakistan that managed to so successfully harness SM in its campaign, PTI would serve as a great example for SM in Pakistan and doing it right.

Thanks once again for taking the time to comment and accepting this as constructive.

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