How The Social Media Buzzer Industry Will Stop Thriving
Sat, 10 Aug 2019 || By Janitra Haryanto

Since social media became the preeminent space for political discourse, the social media buzzer industry grew its role to be an indispensable variable in winning the political contestation on the internet. The trend indicates that the number of conversations about political candidates and issues in social media is often being perceived as a significant determinant to project the size of political candidate followers. The online sentiment towards a political opinion, furthermore, is often being translated into exact sentiment towards a political stance thrown out online by a political figure.

This perspective on the relations between online social media activities and offline political behavior became the foundation of the Indonesian social media buzzer industry to flourish in the past few years. However, questions remain, how long will the industry thrive? Will it keep being the politicians’ undisclosed arsenal in the digital realm? The answer lies on the representability of the online political behavior towards the offline.

The biggest is not necessarily the best

The social media buzzer industry grew massively in Indonesia since 2014, closing into the Jakarta governor election. In Indonesia, the word ‘buzzer’ usually refers to social media accounts which are controlled by people or by bots who are professionally hired to extend the presence of a political candidate or party in the social media. The Indonesian social media buzzers usually work by making posts asserting strong support towards a political candidate, as well as posts attacking the opposition of the supported political candidate.

Unfortunately, the content of the oppressive posts usually involves various kind of information disorder (hoax) to amplify the virality of the news and optimize the grave impact of the target. Having social media buzzer is deemed paramount to attract mass support in the digital realm, wishing that the buzzer can garner the perspective of social media users on a political candidate and affect their voting behavior in the election day.

The perseverance of Indonesian buzzer industry (or perhaps buzzer industries in other countries as well) is firmly based on the perspective that online political behavior does represent the offline. In other words, those who are exposed to posts supporting a political candidate will end up voting for the political candidate in the D-day, and the opposite goes to the antagonist. Alas, it is presumed that championing the political discourse on the internet will result in winning the offline race.

However, this hypothesis has yet to be backed with robust research. While many argued that the online discourse represents the actual position in the offline realm, cases have shown that the size of the online presence does not necessarily become an accurate indicator to foresee the chance of victory in the offline realm. The result of the country’s recent presidential election might reflect the suspicion above.

The government opposition led by Mr. Prabowo has been projected to have more social media buzzers than the ruling government led by Mr. Jokowi[1]. Consequentially, with a bigger cyber army, Mr. Prabowo had been assumed to have more power and range of influence in the social media on persuading social media users to vote for him and his party and even more, hate Mr. Jokowi and the ruling government. This assumption is well-reflected in the quick distribution[2] of the news demonizing the government. While it might be true that Mr. Prabowo had more power in the internet vis a vis Mr. Jokowi, it seemed that Mr. Prabowo still failed to champion the recent presidential election.

Will social media buzzer survive?

The result of the nation’s recent political contestation is against the assumption which has been upholding the social media buzzers industry for the past several years. If the online presence did not succeed in securing the offline political contestation, social media buzzers might not be the most effective way to gain mass support. Therefore, there are possibility for the current social media buzzer to stop thriving in the near future. This is due to the much amount of money being wired in the industry. According to the confession of an ex-buzzer Rahaja Baraha, he could receive around 7 million Rupiah each month during the election in 2017[3]. Furthermore, during election period, each political party can spend up to 3 billion Rupiah only to expand its popularity[4]. The big amount gambled at the service will be the very reason of Indonesian political parties and figures to bet on the courtesy of social media buzzer.

Finally, to address the unknown effectivity of social media buzzer, further research should aim to find the correlation of online and offline political behavior. Does online political behavior align with the offline political choice? Does certain approach bring different outcome in persuading people to vote for a certain political candidate? The answer awaits in the next study.

Editor: Anisa Pratita Mantovani

Read another article written by Janitra Haryanto

 

[1] BBC, (2019). Pilpres 2019 dan peran buzzer: Strategi Jokowi dan Prabowo di dunia maya. BBC [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/indonesia/indonesia-47708114. [Accessed at: 31 Jul. 2019].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Patrick, J., (2019). Uang Panas Industri Buzzer Politik. CNN [online] Available at: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/teknologi/20181210015450-185-352341/uang-panas-industri-buzzer-politik. [Accessed at: 8 Agt. 2019].

[4] Ibid.