Anwar's tweet can't change the election result.
"Khairy and Saifuddin are among the most active on Twitter. Khairy did well in the Rembau parliamentary seat but Saifuddin lost in the Temerloh parliamentary seat. At the end of the day, it's about you and your voters at the grassroots." - Tun Faisal
In GE13, Twitter still not a game-changer
EARLY FINDINGS: Retweets were a powerful way to share information during the campaign
TWITTER was a vital tool to communicate in the run-up to the 13th General Election -- but many voters still turned to the mainstream media for information during the campaign and on May 5.
That's Dr Faizal Kasmani's theory so far as he and a team of two co-researchers and five independent coders plough through more than 38,000 tweets between April 20 and May 6. Stressing that these are preliminary findings, he gives a preview with a random sample of 3,800 tweets sent between noon on May 3 and 6pm on May 6.
The most powerful feature was retweeting, which showed what was most prominent and most shared, says the lecturer of communications at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.
With the majority of the tweets in Malay, Berita Harian was the most retweeted newspaper with 4.2 per cent and Harian Metro came second with 0.8 per cent.
By contrast, according to his previous research, Twitter discussion on speaker Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin and Universiti Utara Malaysia law student K.S. Bawani mostly shared links from alternative media and was mostly in English.
"Twitter did not set any agenda," noted Faizal.
"People were retweeting from Berita Harian, not the other way around. Twitter needs mainstream media. On May 5, there were so many different reports about the election results on Twitter that people decided to wait for the mainstream media and the Election Commission.
"The overall Barisan Nasional presence was overwhelming in the sample," the USIM academic reports. More than half (54 per cent) of the sample were retweets and among these, 59 per cent were pro-BN, 28 per cent were pro-opposition and the remainder "others" or neutral.
The most retweeted was @barisannasional with 6.3 per cent and the most prominent politicians were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (1,561,066 followers) and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (336,496): about 2.5 per cent of their tweets were retweeted.
Former home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was the most active after the PM and Anwar. Others included Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.
"But their tweets were not retweeted as much," says Faizal.
#PRU13 was the biggest conversation, while the most-tweeted and retweeted was "People have decided: Saya undi Najib Razak" linked to several YouTube clips titled "Undilah BN" (Vote BN).
BN Youth Volunteers national command centre director Zaidel Baharuddin says that during the campaign his team would tweet a link to highlight a certain arti-cle or news or policy. But on May 5, he adds, "We were surprised on Twitter there was this fever of searching for Bangladeshi workers."
Back in April last year, Najib had said that candidates with a social media following were more likely to be chosen to contest in the polls. "Twitter is the easiest for politicians to use and for people to access in comparison with Facebook," reckons Umno Youth's new media unit chairman Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz.
"For example, Hishammuddin tweets about what he had for breakfast, his favourite team Man U, that he was really touched when he watched Tanda Putera, etc."
Most of the DAP candidates were on Twitter, says Liew Chin Tong, who was on the party's national election preparation committee. "It is part of the IT infrastructure that we are relying on. For many of us, Twitter and Facebook come hand in hand."
Twitter was not Liew's main campaign tool in the Kluang parliamentary constituency, which he won. He estimated that most of his voters were on Facebook: "Twitter is more urban-centric and Klang Valley, rather than Facebook which is everywhere."
The number of followers and retweets was not necessarily reflected in success on Election Day. "Politicians can communicate, mobilise and inform on Twitter but that can't translate into votes," says USIM's Faisal.
"Khairy and Saifuddin are among the most active on Twitter," points out Tun Faisal.
"Khairy did well in the Rembau parliamentary seat but Saifuddin lost in the Temerloh parliamentary seat. At the end of the day, it's about you and your voters at the grassroots."
Even so, Twitter remains a key part of a politician's toolkit. But for it to be effective, argues Faizal, "Politicians should genuinely communicate with people on Twitter and not get someone to do it on their behalf. You can tell the difference."
Although Twitter may not bring in the votes, he suggests, "It would balance the power relationship between us and the authorities. People want to speak out and want an answer."
In Malaysia, that type of conversation is possible only on Twitter, he claims. "And people who can capitalise on that will win on Twitter."