Lobbyists have a negative reputation, but their influence increases. Generally and honestly speaking, the legitimacy of the democratic systems is being questioned.
Lobbying means persuasion, or interest representation is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in their daily life, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. It is the activity of trying to persuade someone in authority.
In this case, lobbying doesn’t stop at the legislators or members of the regulatory agencies. Lobbying extends to the mass. Here, we consider ‘someone in authority’ as the people.
In an article by The Guardian, it was stated that social media basically is a tool used by politicians to influence other influencers. The microblogging site is a very small universe of people, but it’s the kind of people who can move an agenda.
I’d like to put emphasis on micro and small, and that it can move an agenda.
Well, it looks massive now.
Guess most of you will agree, whatever Twitter does is like the practice of lobbying.
With that, let’s discuss how Twitter, and social media in general, are shaping the new politics.
Kingdom’s social media population
Since 2010, social media in Cambodia has experienced exponential growth.
According to The Asia Foundation-supported Mobile Phones and Internet in Cambodia 2015 survey, almost a third of Cambodians had access to Facebook—with a growth rate of nearly 30 percent per year.
As per the same survey mentioned above, Cambodians who are under 24 years old are five times more likely to be on Facebook than Cambodians 40 and older.
It’s pretty obvious that the walls of the village have quickly come down for a younger electorate, the survey concluded.
We Are Social just released the latest essential social media data. At present and still increasing, out of the over 16 million people, 8 million use internet and 7 million of them are active social media users.
KH politics on social media
Prime Minister Hun Sen has over 10 million Facebook page likes. This makes him the 14th among the top 20 political people in the world in number of Facebook fans.
However, the high number of likes for Cambodian politicians doesn’t necessarily correlate with support.
The reasons for this are simple. The Asia Foundation’s recent study, ‘A Survey of Livelihood Strategies and Expectations for the Future’, shows that people are twice as likely to discuss politics if they are on Facebook.
In one recent column, I have shared with you on social media’s significant effect on political discussions, I mentioned a study that pointed out, “Frequent usage of Facebook and Twitter for sharing political information is conducive to higher levels of participation through different efficacy measures. Facebook has a significant effect on collective efficacy, whereas Twitter’s effect is on internal efficacy.”
When a Facebook user likes a politician’s Facebook page, they aren’t just getting more news and information, but they are accessing the political content which influences their opinions, their judgment and eventually their votes.
This is where the concept of lobbying comes in.
Social lobbying is a term I’m not even sure exists but what am trying to say is it is meant to persuade and influence the people’s decision making through online values and impressions.
Fortune.com published an article entitled ‘Government Lobbyists Are More Nimble than Ever’ and it says, “the public sector may be behind on embracing modern technology, but lobbyists are way ahead. And it’s radically changing the way they do business.”
Bryan Miller, senior vice president of public policy for San Francisco solar energy provider Sunrun, says “Mail and TV were the traditional forms of communications, and they’re expensive primarily because they’re imperfect.”
But social media and online advertising have since emerged as more affordable and precise alternatives for basic outreach. Which basically proves why it works all the time.
Not to invalidate our political leaders’ intention to reach out but with all those, are the social media platforms really fuelling a political race to the bottom?
Famous novelist, George Orwell, once said that “Power-worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”
May the Kingdom’s newly-elected set of political leaders set the bar higher, not just on social media aspect but on the more relevant and realistic part of the social branch – its people.