How young social media influencers can shape opinions ahead of the polls

Published Mar 28, 2024


Youth opinion has increased across all social media platforms, as South Africa approaches the 2024 elections.

The opinions of these young leaders is crucial because a growing number of young voters are engaging in political engagements online, some for the very first time.

Social media platforms have become an effective means of communication and lobbying, especially for younger generations. South African celebrities, activists, and content creators are examples of influencers who have developed followings on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

Sthabiso Mdledle from Democracy Development Program (DDP), explains that social media influencers like Kay Yarms made it to the news headlines, as she had posted a link to a new video blog on Instagram, encouraging young people to register for voting and that is how they ended up registering.

Influencers are in a position to shape people's opinions on a variety of social and political issues, including elections, because they have the ability to engage and build relationships with younger audiences.

Mdledle said: “In my opinion, influencers can be based on the following factors: reach and engagement for influencers with a huge following, significantly the youth. Their ability to share political-related content can have a considerable impact on shaping the views of their followers”.

In South Africa, influencers play a significant role in promoting political parties, candidates, and important issues to their followers. Through engaging content, personal stories, and recommendations, they have the power to shape public opinion and influence the political views of their audience.

South African influencers not only influence opinions, but also have a vital role in amplifying various voices and perspectives in the political sphere. They utilise their platforms to bring attention to social justice issues, support marginalised communities, and raise awarenesses about the significance of civic engagement.

Through their different diverse voices, influencers help create a more comprehensive and knowledgeable political dialogue and inspire young people to consider multiple perspectives before solidifying their opinions.

While the influence of social media influencers can be a force for positive change, it also presents challenges and ethical considerations. The spread of misinformation, the risk of echo chambers, and the potential for influencer bias are among the concerns that must be addressed.

Furthermore, the transparency of influencer agreements and the distinction between paid promotions and genuine advocacy are important considerations for maintaining the ethics of political engagement online.

Mdledle thinks influencers have to adjust their social platforms based on what they want and how to influence the public.

The impact of social media on the opinions of young people cannot be overlooked, as South Africa gets ready for the elections of 2024.

Influencers have the responsibility to act with integrity and transparency, encourage critical thinking, and host inclusive conversations so that the youth can make wise decisions about their political participation.

Through the responsible use of social media, influencers in South Africa can strengthen its democratic procedures and guarantee that the opinions of young people are acknowledged and appreciated in the political sphere.

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