Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Social media as political player


The Nepali Congress does not understand the power of social media. This was obvious from the way its US-trained economist-politicians criticised the US Ambassador's Facebook status updates against Monday's Nepal banda.

Far from being political, the ambassador's much-commented-upon post talked about externalities: the economic and social costs forced upon on millions of people when a few politicians encourage their militant youth cadres to go all out to enforce a shutdown. For a political party professing faith in democracy, did it suit NC's image to push its narrow party-political agenda down everyone's throat?

The politicians' criticism also touched upon the envoy's use of Facebook to share his thoughts directly with thousands of his 'friends'. How dare, one could hear the NC politicians asking themselves, the envoy use Facebook to reach out to the people directly and thereby cast us in a negative light? But this is where the historic and pre-historic NC leaders need to wake up, rub their eyes and learn how the media world has changed to upend their sense of politics as usual.

To be sure, the NC leaders are comfortable in the world of traditional media. According to Douglas Arellanes, a media maven in Prague, media is centralised: it has headquarters, physical offices, editors, administrators and so on. That media is also scheduled, in the sense that it adheres to fixed timetables to bring out its dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies and so forth. Sustaining that media requires a lot of money. The payroll is big, and there is rent, utilities and suppliers to pay. It also operates on a tight hierarchy-based control: publishers decide what priorities to fund, editors decide what to put out and those selling ads report their sales results to managers. It is with this media a politician could cultivate relationship, to get his press releases out to everyone.

But thanks to the Internet that media is dying slowly. Many traditional media companies now face a hard time to keep raising revenues from advertisers and subscribers who now enjoy a wider range of choices required to meet their ever escalating costs.

As a result, its place is increasingly taken up by social media. Operating as a social media player requires no office and no schedule and hardly any expense. It has no hierarchy and there's no one to report to. Instead, it's easier for a person to set up a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, or FourSquare and be her own publisher, editor, presenter and writer on anything that catches his or her fancy. If they are good as in the case of make-up guru Promise Tamang, people will follow his or her the way they used to follow traditional media outlets, and his or her influence will rise exponentially. If not, then, there will always be another social media influencer.

Social media is about creating and then deepening authentic relationship with one's friends and followers by using real-time information without the restrictions faced by the traditional media. If mistakes are made you just revise or correct them, something that can't easily be done on a traditional media platform.

According to, as of December 2011, there are about 1.3 million Facebook users from Nepal. Given Nepal's youth population, it's worth thinking that most of these users are young, educated, internet-savvy Nepalis who aspire for a better, more democratic Nepal. Social media allows them to take part in conversations, discussions and debates about issues that potentially shape the future that they want for themselves in Nepal. It will be the misfortune of Nepali political parties if they disregard social media.

1. Ujjwal Acharya
Social media has become a powerful tool of social dialogue which is not centrally controlled as the traditional mainstream media. The message that anyone wants to get around to the people will be delivered as it is (without the discretion of journalists as in mainstream media); and US ambassador is using that to the optimal benefit. However, it's also important for us to understand that the Facebook page of US Ambassador is not his 'personal' page, rather a personalized page of the US Embassy is Kathmandu, and behave in that page accordingly while commenting or writing something.

2. chandra baral
0 new insights. yawn.

3. who cares
I totally disagree. 

US govt. controls those sites. and assange's case proved that.

 Internet is the most dangerous place to flirt in. 

4. kamal kishor
Agree fully with the analysis about social media. NC is loosing grounds to all others because it does not understand NGOs because it is dominated by Experts who don't have any followings and networking because its political culture is dictatorial. Unless NC realizes sooner better for Nepal. Otherwise, Nepal will soon be a soccer field between UCPU, UML and Madhesis.

Disagree about US Ambassador. An Ambassador has his personal life within his circle and house but any philosophy and principles he expresses in public is his country's policy. I don't like US directly trying to influence NC politics.

5. GyaRel
Only 8% - 12% in Nepal use internet. Most of them use for chat with someone outside Nepal. Facebook users are not constituent of Nepali Politics. If Facebook users were their constituent, then there should have been more young leaders on front line in  NC. NC's target is mostly old and people with family who value traditional. They support NC not because NC represent them, but because this is the only option they have in market "political store". NC should have moved towards Democrats in US where young people like Obama from nowhere in earlier 5 years comes to national stage and becomes President by tearing all walls. In Nepal, the parties are so centralized that there is no way you can break those walls and reach the front line in a few years. The old generation are taking NC as a hostage, and misusing the ultra-vigilante underage in college education who should have been under parent guided high-school.

Another note, the NC leaders are guiding no-one but themselves. They have stopped reading anything other than a few national dailies. They became leader through street revolutions, and have no knowledge on economy, sociology, and technology. They are the dumbest people that I have ever met or seen in Nepal. They are only good in provoking people to break the street guard-rails and burn the tires. I just wonder why does not Gagan Thapa (the model young leader in current nepal) have his own website, does not have his spokesperson, does not have his contact office (but is that Meat shop his contact office?), does not have his group of advisers known to public? Why? Because he does not need it, and it is not worth. His model might be Arjun Narsingh KC (his father in law), and he might be thinking that since his FIL did not need such resources, why would he need? 

NC will continue to use such idiocy as long as it pays them some vote banks.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)