Politicians on Youtube

Sri Lankan Politicians on YouTube

YouTube continues to dominate as one of the leading social media networks in the world. From musicians to sports personalities, and from businesses to charity organizations, many individuals, groups and institutions are using YouTube as one of their primary marketing tools. The site is also popular in the political arena, with politicians and political parties signing up to the network for their propaganda activities. In this series of posts, we have taken a look at the participation of Sri Lankan politicians on Facebook and Twitter. We continue our analysis by looking into Sri Lankan politicians on YouTube, their videos and the user interaction.

Sri Lankan politicians’ presence on YouTube is still at an early state; especially when compared to their activity across other popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter their YouTube accounts have relatively fewer subscribers, activity and engagement. This can be due to two reasons.

  • Less number of people in Sri Lanka having YouTube accounts compared to Facebook and Twitter which can explain the relatively less number of comments, engagement and followers.
  • Due to most YouTube accounts of politician’s being inactive or having relatively low paced updates compared to other digital mediums used by them.

His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa has two YouTube accounts; one of which was especially created for 2010 Presidential election campaigning purposes.  The mahinda2010 account, which was created on the 26th of November 2009, has over 100 videos and over 200 subscribers. The videos that have a collective view of over 185,000, include many election campaign advertisements, speeches given by the President at election rallies and various events and campaign related videos with special emphasis on the war efforts, rehabilitation and development of the country. Many of the videos are in Sinhalese and English and only some of those videos have a Tamil version.

Although some of the videos posted have over 16 to 17,000 views, only a very few videos have a few comments posted on them. However the channel has a comments tab which has several comments posted on it, many of which are well wishes but no response has been posted by the president’s account. This account has been inactive since the end of the election and the last video posted on this channel has been on the 25th of January 2010, one day before the 2010 Presidential elections were held.

The President also has another official YouTube channel, Mahinda Rajapaksa created on the 20th March this year. As of today it only has 6 subscribers and 7 videos posted, which are all clips of the President giving speeches at various events such as the 2013 Independence Day Celebrations and opening of the Mattala Airport. Even though the channel has over 2000 collective views and over 200 – 700 views on each video there are no comments posted so far in any of them. The discussions tab on the channel too is empty.

Since the channel was set up only a couple of months ago with time we can expect to see it picking up its speed, increasing its activities and number of subscribers. It would be good if the channel posted a wide variety videos and most or all of its videos with subtitles or different versions of it so that viewers of all Sinhalese, English and Tamil language can consume its contents.  It will also be advantageous if descriptions for these videos were written in all three languages making it easier for all viewers to understand as well as search for videos.

The President’s son, Parliamentarian Minister, Namal Rajapakse too has recently joined YouTube in January this year. The Namal Rajapaksa channel already has over 120 videos with over 6000 collective video views. The account has 17 subscribers and includes videos of speeches delivered by MP Namal Rajapakse, events and talk shows attended by him, local news extracts related to him and several videos focusing on development projects taking place in the country. Among the Sri Lankan politicians on YouTube, his is one of the most active accounts with regular updates with different types of videos such as news extracts, documentary type videos, speeches etc on varied topics, unlike the President’s recent YouTube account. PM Namal Rajapakse’s videos have only a few comments by viewers and zero comments posted on the comments tab. Most videos carry content in Sinhalese with many of them titled “NRMedia Team”. While this channel is doing fairly well compared to those of other Lankan politicians’ perhaps posting more videos in English and Tamil as well as Sinhalese and giving some of those videos titled “NRMedia Team” a more suitable title would help increase the number of views, subscribers and engagement level of the channel. For videos to be found on YouTube it’s important to make sure they are optimized for search. Using keywords to tag YouTube videos means that search engines will highlight those terms in the search results when a user has performed a query with those terms. This helps garner a greater visibility and a higher click-through rate.

A video of the architectural layout of the Mattala Airport from PM Namal Rajapaksa’s channel, portraying the diversity of topics on his YouTube account


Another active politician’s account we can see in YouTube is PM Sajith Premedasa’s. The Sajith Premadasa account has been created in January 2010 and has been active ever since. It has 135 subscribers, 566 videos and over 200,000 collective video views. While only some videos have a few comments posted on them, the discussions tab of this channel has a relatively significant number of comments posted on it compared to many other channels analyzed in this post. An exceptional feature of this account is that the most popular video of this channel is a video titled “Sajith Premada and Dayasiri Jayasekara Singing a Duet”. The Most popular videos tab of the channel has several other videos showcasing Sajith Premedasa’s guitar and singing skills. A large part of YouTube’s appeal is its authenticity. Most people who attract audiences of millions do so by sharing videos of their true selves. While politicians tend to be extremely scripted on YouTube, the most popular political videos tell the real story.  Sharing such videos have helped the channel increase its collective views and would have also no doubt helped earn more subscribers.

The United National Party has joined YouTube in October 2012. The channel named eunp SM has 78 videos, 42 subscribers and a collective video view of over 22,000. Most of these videos too are in Sinhala and are extracts from television broadcasts.  Similar to MP Namal Rajapakse’s YouTube account, this channel also has many videos titled eUNP.org. Tagging the videos with appropriate titles and diversifying its contents as previously mentioned could help the channel increase its visibility and views. SLMC has also joined YouTube on the 9th of March 2010. slmuslimcongress channel has only 5 videos, 8 subscribers, a collective view of over 20,000 and has been inactive for 3 years.

There are several other YouTube accounts belonging to politicians in Lanka which only has a few videos posted and has been inactive for years. S.B Dissanayake has created an account on YouTube on 1st of January 2009 and is amongst the first politicians in Sri Lanka to join the YouTube community. SBDissanayake channel has posted only 6 videos which have collective views of over 8000 but the channel has no subscribers since it has not been active for over three years. PM Rauff Hakeem too has a channel with just one video that has over 2000 views but the rauffhakeemslmc account has been inactive since the day it has been set up in February 2012. Minister of Economic development, Basil Rajapaksa has created a channel on the 27th of February in 2010. He too has posted videos from February to August that year and has been inactive since August 2010.  BasilRajapaksa channel has 6 subscribers with over 6000 collective video views. Milinda Moragoda has joined YouTube on 20th February, 2010. His channel,  MilindaMoragoda has 56 videos, 8 subscribers with over 5000 collective video views. And this account too hasn’t been active for over a year.

There are two more accounts that have been very recently created by Sri Lankan Politicians on YouTube. MP Ranjan Ramanayaka has created an account January this year. Ranjan Ramanayake has one subscriber and one video posted which has over 1100 views. It has been inactive since the publishing of the first and only video early this year. Patali Champika Ranawaka too has joined YouTube on the 6th of March 2013 it has one subscriber, 9 videos and a collective video view of about 700. The account Patali Champika Ranawaka too has been inactive since the month of initiation. It is difficult to verify the legitimacy of some of these channels due to the lack of descriptions and information available.

Other prominent channels belong to MP Duminda Silva and the former commander and General of the Sri Lankan Army and a former candidate for President of Sri Lanka, Sarath Fonseka.  MP Duminda Silva’s channel, R Dumindha Silva has been created in March 2009. His channel has 30 subscribers, 48 videos that have collective views of over 90,000. This account has been inactive for over a year and has started publishing videos again late April this year. General Sarath Fonseka’s is another account that has utilized YouTube for 2010 presidential election campaigning. SarathFonseka2010 account which was created mid December in 2009 has 242 subscribers, 76 videos that has collective views of over 235,000. The videos contain content related to election campaign, mostly in Sinhalese and has been inactive for over three years, soon after the end of elections in 2010.

Sri Lankan Politicians on YouTube - Sarath Fonseka's YouTube page
Sarath Fonseka’s YouTube page

What’s common with most of these channels are that the videos posted are mostly extracts from television broadcasts, they are all mostly in Sinhalese, with very few comments from viewers and no engagement or replies from the politicians. Posting videos in all three languages used in Sri Lanka or posting videos with subtitles would certainly make it more accessible to all and help expand their reach. Posting videos across other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can also drive traffic to their channels and help build their audience. Finding a compelling way to engage with their constituents through YouTube will also help increase the number of subscribers whilst increasing its views.

Participation of Sri Lankan politicians on YouTube is likely to increase

Through this analysis it is evident that the participation of Sri Lankan politicians on YouTube is quite low, especially when compared to other social media platforms used by them. However we can see an increasing trend with many YouTube channels and videos being published by them from the beginning of this year. With the increase in internet penetration in Sri Lanka, the popularity of such social sites and the increasing appetite for political content on YouTube, we can forecast a considerable hike in the use of YouTube by politicians in future.

A video infographic from YouTube marketing and online video expert James Wedmore reveals the latest statistics for YouTube. By 2012, YouTube has over 800 million unique users. It receives over 4 billion video views per day and in just one minute online 2.8 million videos are viewed on YouTube. With the popularity and demand for visual content rising we have to keep in mind that visual content such as videos on YouTube has higher capacity to go viral than other type of content. Videos have all the right elements that trigger people to watch, share and respond to its contents. Visual content provides live and greater detail, it is more appealing and easier to consume content that are represented in sensory style (visual and auditory) and also allows greater level of interaction and participation enabling audience to connect in a deeper level. While these features can be strategically utilized to reach, engage and motivate citizens, a high degree of caution should be exercised when utilizing it for political purpose. But with the right content, consistent updates and engagement on YouTube, millions of viewers can be reached almost in an instant while achieving PR and media objectives for low or no cost.

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