Webinar on “Different Frontiers of Social Media War in Indonesian Election 2024” 

In this webinar, Dr Ismail Fahmi shared his analyses of social media strategies employed by the three Indonesian presidential candidates in the 2024 Election. Dr Ismail presented data retrieved from two most popular social media platforms in Indonesia, namely TikTok and X.


Wednesday, 24 April 2024 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) invited Dr Ismail Fahmi, lecturer at Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII) and the founder of PT Media Kernels Indonesia, to present in a webinar on how Indonesian presidential candidates carried out their respective campaign strategies on social media platforms. Dr Siwage Dharma Negara, Senior Fellow and Co-Coordinator of the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS, moderated this session. 

Dr Ismail Fahmi and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara (moderator). (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Ismail started off by explaining the voters’ landscape, with Generation Z and Millennials making up a total of 56% of the voters. A national survey conducted in December 2023 revealed that Indonesians relied on various social media as a source of information on social and political issues. Dr Ismail then juxtaposed the data on social assistance distribution with people’s voting preferences. Contrary to popular belief, he argued that social assistance did not influence voters’ behaviours.

Dr Ismail raised two interesting findings on candidates’ campaign strategies. The first point is how Prabowo Subianto dominated TikTok with his “gemoy grandpa” – a cuddly grandpa persona. Despite being late in the game, Prabowo even managed to surpass the popularity of his contender, Ganjar Pranowo, with his “Ganjar Nginap” – in which Ganjar spends a night at a resident’s house, who had been posting campaign materials earlier before Prabowo did. Meanwhile, Anies Baswedan and his “Desak Anies” – Urge Anies campaign program, in which he took questions from different public audiences, had gained popularity on Twitter/X. Unfortunately, the platform’s monthly active users are among the lowest.

Dr Ismail also touched upon the documentary movie Dirty Vote and acknowledged the limits of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in gathering data. He found that AI is unable to distinguish whether a negative sentiment on social media platforms was directed toward the movie production or the findings revealed in the movie. To compensate for this shortcoming, Dr Ismail used both AI and human intelligence to analyze the data.

During the Question-and-Answer session, a member of the audience asked about the increasing use of social media for political campaigns and how the government should regulate it. Dr Ismail emphasized the need to ensure fairness; regulating social media campaigns should not breach people’s freedom of speech. Another question raised by the audience was whether the results of the 2029 Election are pre-determined, given that young Indonesians have a collective memory of candidates’ social media content. Dr Ismail noted that this year’s election had given Prabowo-Gibran’s team valuable experience in social media campaigns, which can be useful not only for socializing their programs in the next five years but also for the 2029 Election. However, Dr Ismail noted that voters’ preferences in the next election would also be shaped by the performance of Prabowo-Gibran administration. The last issue discussed was on the comparison of social media polarisation between the 2019 and 2024 presidential elections. The prominent feature of the 2019 polarisation was the use of degenerative names to refer to supporters of presidential candidates. In the 2024 Election, the use of such names did not gain prominence among the younger generation. The youth, on the other hand, preferred an entertaining campaign, making Prabowo-Gibran’s social media content of dancing and singing popular.

Dr Ismail shared some final concluding remarks, highlighting that positioning, content strategy, riding the wave, and unconventional methods have been proven successful, making Prabowo-Gibran’s campaign content widely memorized even by those who were not yet eligible to vote. The webinar drew 86 online participants from Singapore and abroad.