The social media usage of individuals and organizations belonging to the political arena in Sri Lanka is still at an early stage. This series of reports, looks into the social media usage of politicians and political parties in Sri Lanka.
Several Facebook accounts, dedicated to politicians and political parties, are in existence but only a handful of them are currently active. The participation in Twitter is much lower with a very low number of profiles compared to Facebook. This analysis of social media usage in the political sector in Sri Lanka takes a closer look at the participation on Twitter by various politicians and political parties.
Among the few Twitter accounts, only a handful of them were found to be actively engaging in tweets, replies and interactions. The account of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapakse was set up in January 2013, and has been active ever since. Tweets containing news items, Government releases and official photographs are tweeted on a daily basis. The account occasionally uses the hashtags #SriLanka and #lka in some of its tweets. As the premier political Twitter account in Sri Lanka, the account has almost 3,000 followers and has also gained the Verified status from Twitter. However, this account does not engage in interactions with other users, which may be due to official reasons. One unique characteristic about this account is that tweets are posted in all three languages; English, Tamil and Sinhala.
The President’s son, Honorable Namal Rajapakse too, has a very active participation on Twitter. It appears as if the tweets are posted all by himself and as a result, the account already has over 200 tweets and over 700 followers. Namal Rajapakse posts his opinions, updates as well as frequent photos of the various events he’s participating in. Unlike his father’s account, Namal Rajapakse interacts with fellow users, which has helped him gain wide popularity, after joining Twitter only in mid-April.
Another prominent Twitter account in the political arena belongs to Opposition MP, Ranjan Ramanayake. This account posts a considerable amount of tweets and they mainly feature news updates, photos, videos as well as film related news that he is starring in. Majority of the tweets are orienting from Facebook and YouTube, which may not be the best way of participating in Twitter. However, he does at times actively tweet and interact with other users. Gajen Ponnambalam is another politician with a highly active Twitter account. The tweets seem to be posted all by himself and it is also notable that he actively engages in interacting with other users. The account has posted a steady number of over 400 tweets since its inception in January 2013. Unlike most other accounts in this analysis, this account uses hashtags in its tweets whenever appropriate. Among the many hashtags being used, #SriLanka and #lka are the most frequent.
Apart from the four Twitter accounts mentioned above, there are also several accounts that post tweets frequently, but from external sources. Hon. Mangala Samaraweera’s account mostly consists of news items and political updates, and all its tweets are posted through Facebook. The account has over 500 tweets along with almost 300 followers. The account of Sajith Premadasa posts several tweets per day and all of them are posted through Facebook. Milinda Moragoda’s tweets hail from his own website, Facebook page and YouTube. This account is one of the oldest Twiiter accounts among Sri Lankan politicians, and has so far posted over 800 tweets. Karu Jayasuriya’s account has gained over 400 followers but all of its tweets are posted directly through Facebook.
Generally, Twitter users are attracted to accounts that post genuine tweets, rahter than tweets from external sources. These few Twitter accounts need to put some effort into posting genuine content via Twitter rather than clogging up their timelines with external links. Direct participation on Twitter helps the politicians and political parties to hear the true opinions of other Twitter users, provide feedback to questions, interact with fellow Sri Lankans and build up the reputation of the account.
There are two Twitter accounts belonging to Sri Lankan political parties and both these accounts are pretty active. The United National Party account has accumulated over 150 followers and has posted over 350 tweets. The Tweets are mainly news items, videos of speeches and other updates. Like most other accounts in this analysis, the tweets of this account too hail from external websites such as Facebook and YouTube. The Twitter account of the Tamil National Alliance is not as active as other accounts with just 5 to 10 tweets per month. The account posts various news articles and at times takes part in active interaction with users. It is notable that both these two political parties frequently use hashtags in their tweets, with #SriLanka and #lka being the most prominent ones.
Among the now-inactive Twitter accounts, one notable account is of General Sarath Fonseka. This account was basically created for the Presidential election in 2010, in which he contested. More tweets were posted after the election too, but the account has been inactive since November 2012. The Twitter account of Rauff Hakeem too was created in view of the 2010 Presidential elections but has been inactive ever since. Minister of Power & Energy, Patali Champika Ranawaka’s Twitter account was set up in 2010 and has had active participation but has been inactive since October 2010. Azath Salley’s Twitter account was initiated in March 2013 but has been inactive in recent times. The Twitter accounts of Rohitha Bogollagama and Thilanga Sumathipala haven’t had any proper activity since their inception.
The usage of Twitter among politicians and political parties in Sri Lanka is still at a low level, but with the increasing popularity of the social network, easy access to internet services, it is likely that the number of Sri Lankan politicians on Twitter would increase. The account administrators will keep learning about the art of Tweeting, hence, the quality of tweets and the level of interactions are sure to increase. The hashtags #SriLanka and #lka seem to be prominent among these accounts, which is advantageous since it provides the chance for other Twitter users to have quick access to news updates and developments, by just following these hashtags.
All in all, we have discovered through this social media analysis that the twitter usage in the Sri Lankan political arena is really low compared to the activity on Facebook. Only a handful of accounts actually post tweets from a dedicated client while majority of the accounts’ tweets hail from external websites. Since the number of Twitter users in Sri Lanka is growing rapidly, it is advisable for the politicians to put more effort into their twitter participation and engage with other users more often. Active participation would increase the chances of their popularity and would widen the opportunities for the general public to receive reliable news from dependable sources.