Musharraf needs a new social media manager
Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
At the time of writing former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s Facebook page has an impressive 1,430,248 likes. He’s slightly behind PTI chief Imran Khan who leads with 1,490,916 likes on Facebook. However, with 80,156 people “talking about” Musharraf’s page, as compared to Khan’s 34,480, the former Chief of Army Staff has more than twice the engagement rate than that of Kaptaan’s page. Which is ironic, considering engagement and negotiations are what Khan clamours for virtually 24/7.
With a miserly 70,142 Facebook likes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is way behind in the race. And to put things into perspective, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has 49,746 likes, Co-Chairmen of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have 29,036 and 20,218 likes respectively and Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain has 6,771 likes on Facebook.
While Musharraf is clearly a Facebook celebrity, it’s not quite the same case on Twitter. He has 55,946 followers at the time of writing, which even though isn’t too bad a return for merely 886 tweets, still is light years behind Imran Khan’s 856,053 followers. Maryam Nawaz Sharif has 253,446; Shahbaz Sharif has 230,166 and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has 137,556 followers on Twitter. This shows Musharraf has a lot of catching up to do on this particular platform.
The reason why we’re juxtaposing Musharraf’s social media performance with other politicians is because we believe that the former president finds himself in the current hole because of a faulty social media strategy and an incompetent social media manager. Imran Khan’s social media strategy made him the leader of the second biggest political party in Pakistan; Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s social media strategy made him sound like an anti-Taliban warrior; while Musharraf’s social media strategy made him a prisoner in his own house, under trial for treason. Hence, Musharraf getting out of this hole depends on him getting a new social media manager.
Any digital marketing expert would tell you that as soon as your social media manager reduces your social media campaigns to merely numbers it’s the first indicator that they need to be replaced.
The first step in social media marketing is to define your targets, which should both be realistic and serve the bigger picture. Musharraf’s social media team fails miserably here. Instead of upping the ante on the number of likes, the focus should’ve been on highlighting Musharraf’s achievements and peddling him as Pakistan’s saviour when the country was traversing its toughest epoch. The social media manager should’ve told his employer that the goal of his firm should be to exaggerate his accomplishments, in lieu of any delusions about returning to the helm of Pakistani government.
Where were the infographics comparing Pakistan’s economy under Musharraf with the democratic governments of recent times? Where were the graphs and pie charts highlighting how both power shortage and terrorist attacks – Pakistan’s two biggest problems of recent time – were under control in the Musharraf era? Where were the blog posts iterating how democracy can’t work for Pakistan? Instead all the social media team seemed to focus on was Musharraf’s half selfies and how he would sweep last year’s elections. The vindication for that delusion was the social media numbers.
The writing was quite obviously on the wall.
Alright, no one’s perfect, and we’re all allowed to make mistakes. Some strategies work, some don’t, but a part of being a social media manager is to revamp stratagems, revisit the drawing board and innovate. Musharraf comes back to Pakistan, lives under house arrest, and faces all kinds of charges, and the social media team doesn’t rethink its strategy. Not one bit.
Where were the banners depicting the Lal Masjid manoeuvre as Exhibit A of a successful counterterrorism strategy? Where were the jingoistic video blogs castigating the government for accusing a former army chief of treason? Where were the write-ups declaring all freedom fighters in Balochistan as terrorists to shield Musharraf against accusations of human rights violation?
When Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary was about to retire, Musharraf’s social media team should’ve dedicated an entire campaign against him. Another campaign should’ve been dedicated to showcasing how Nawaz Sharif was regularly playing the Musharraf card to deflect attention away from his own abysmal performance. A banner with the words “selective justice” and “October 12, 1999; November 3, 2007”, along the lines of a ‘cause and effect’ theme should’ve been the cover of Musharraf’s Facebook page all this time. How about pointing out all the cases against Nawaz Sharif? How about the plane hijacking case where the PM didn’t let Musharraf’s plane land in Karachi?
There’s so much material to produce quality content and devise proper content marketing and social media strategies.
Now with one and all believing that Musharraf is faking his long list of illnesses, there needs to be a campaign dedicated to changing that perception and mustering sympathy for the former army chief. Only a new and innovative strategy devised by a new social media manager can help Musharraf save face and right the wrongs of the current social media team.
And considering I sort of do this for a living, I thought I’d pitch my name as a possible replacement. Contact details down below.
The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @khuldune