On February 25, 2016, ballots were creased, cast and counted and the Jamaica Labour Party was declared victorious, winning the contract for the governance of Jamaica, Inc., as one respected pundit put it. The People’s National Party was not and heads are still spinning as a result. Many assumed the positives of the economy: lowest inflation in 40 years, increased investor confidence and the bullish performance of the domestic stock market (lauded by international investment house Bloomberg), made victory an afterthought for the PNP. I believe one factor contributing to their loss and the JLP’s victory, exists ‘in the cloud’.

This victory was hard won on the digital front. In fact, a study conducted by NM Incite in 2012 found that “social media buzz can influence who wins elections, but it doesn’t appear to impact voter turnout”. This is not to discount the campaigning that took place on the ground, however, I wager that the ‘articulate minority’came out in droves to demonstrate that the arrogance displayed by the PNP in the decision not to debate, would not be accepted. Of course the JLP’s promise of more food on the table and money in the pockets of the population via their 1.5 million tax threshold, certainly didn’t hurt. The latter coupled with the decision not to debate, focus on the now Prime Minister Elect’s house, played a part, but carrying these issues, or lack thereof to our eyes and ears was social media. Persistent, consistent, and omnipresent.

The power of social media is yet to be understood by many, but for those that do, it is the natural progression of the internet. The internet gave the world information portals in the form of websites where persons share information, social media collates, curates, and connects whilst adding context. While it may not directly drive people to the polls, it can definitely drive, and lead to U-turns in the thoughts and votes of those who do.

Social platforms were the stomping grounds where campaigning has been taking place for many of us. GlobalWebIndex’s latest data shows that the internet now makes up 57% of global media consumption, with social media alone taking 26% of people’s media time, more than TV’s 23%. Social media use supplemented many television advertisements, and unlike television could be shared for all to see. While TV ads lasts for moments, social lasts for a lifetime. This becomes even more important when one considers that mobile phone penetration in Jamaica has surpassed 100 percent and it is projected that all Jamaicans will have smartphones in 2016, meaning many are in current possession, allowing for seamless information transfer and receipt.

One party used social media well, the other…not so much. Andrew Holness’s fan page on Facebook currently has a following of 110,556, Portia Simpson Miller, has a quarter of that, 25,390. The party’s pages have 5,384, and 55,305, respectively. One difference in their execution was the all the JLP’s videos were uploaded to the Andrew Holness’s public page, while the PNP chose the party’s public page to do so. This created one collective from which he could address and respond to those in his digital community and their communities as well creating a digital ripple.

Andrew Holness also did a feature where he was interviewed by Mr. Vegas (who has recently become very outspoken on national issues), an election ploy, but nonetheless this gave him a cool factor, not to mention the memes of him in his Clarkes and the response, which lead to ‘LOLs’ all over Jamaican twitter (Andrew has 13.3k followers to Portia’s 5,102). I would argue that these subtle, seemingly nuanced micro-content pieces humanized the candidate and made him much more likeable and his message more believable to many.

Both parties produced numerous videos detailing plans, showing candidates and integrating them in the process. However, the quality and aesthetic of the JLP’s offering were superior, consistent branding and custom graphics highlighting their plans, cutaway effects and full use of the digital spectrum. They even used a nifty website to detail their 10-point plan, which was well done by all accounts.

These platforms were where I received much of my information, and I doubt I am alone in the latter. It is only fitting then, that these platforms be the place where many chose to further legitimized their franchise by uploading and sharing what I and many others have been calling, “the purple finger selfie.”

Social media’s scope and influence, makes it a powerful mechanism for changing the pro quo and stirring new ideas in the political cauldron, not to mention in the business space, when properly executed. The very fact that many have been posting these selfies, could have created a funnel leading to even more votes among those who frequent the platforms. Of course this is all speculative, only raw data than draw clear cut lines of association. What is clear however, is that the JLP’s victory and social media are not mutually exclusive.

The purple finger selfie demonstrated to the poster’s respective communities, friends and family that they voted, and they are indeed about action, as ‘in-articulate’ as they may be. Those that didn’t participate would feel left out, like only social media has the power to do. Accompanying the pictures were captions adding context to the nature of voting, what it represents to them and those who fought to make it possible. Such sentiments showed that many were learning to speak, and speak well.

I believe the millennial vote played an important role in this upset. Jamaica’s youth are said to register the highest levels of voter apathy, yet, they are also the most represented on the social platforms in question; the very platforms where the JLP executed divisively. They campaigned promising prosperity; Promising change…Obama 2008 anyone?

And akin to that groundbreaking 2008 election in the United States, social media was the medium through which increased political participation took place. I have seen numerous comments fixed on the sentiment that all people do on social media is complain. Well this complaining also forms a very important role in the democratic political process, the fact that some take time to share their perspectives spells well for democracy. Let’s not forget that parochial culture develops in spaces of both inaction and ignorance, and while much misinformation is also shared on these platforms, there are gems of deep probing analysis taking place. This helps to imbue and augment the civic culture resident in Jamaica.

In short, this digital participation is participation nonetheless. Even more importantly, for the wise and forward thinking, these complaints provided valuable data on how to appeal to, respond to and cradle the voters. Social media makes you a broadcaster, but those that master it, are effective listeners at their core. Social media has turned everyone into a media company, and the only tool needed is already at your disposal a smartphone with an adequate camera.

Many persons liked, commented, shared and added context to the political discussions taking place. They shared opinions, highlighted flaws, commented on the solutions presented (especially in relation to the number 1.5) and celebrated or mourned the victory or defeat of their respective parties. Of course we must take into account that only approximately 900,000 persons in Jamaica use any form of social media and not everyone engaged in the digital discussions. That being said, the diaspora has been chiming in. Social provided an opportunity for those who could not afford to fly down to vote, to cast their digital ballots, contributing to the discourse and helping to share the information so vital to decision making.

On the flip side, social media has also highlighted some not too tasteful aspects of Jamaica’s political culture, the political partisanship, whilst poking fun at the clientelism, Carl Stone espoused, which is very much still a part of our political legacy. The voting based on tradition was demonstrated shown on video I saw on Facebook where TVJ interviewed a few party supporters and their responses were biased to say the least; based on who’s grandmother had voted here or there. While sad, it is an important element that social media has brought to light for those living under a rock, in Jam-rock.

Whether social media was the cause for the upset in this election or if it’s still regarded as a tool used by a minority of the young and middle aged members of society to spout off at the mouth, it was undeniable useful. While, only data released from the the polls will be conclusive. What is clear is that it played a role and the ideas it facilitated, resonated. It led to very deep probes and the sharing of opinions, which could have swayed voters.

Understand that people check their smartphones an average 85 times a day without even knowing they are doing it. This gave both parties 85 chances to put their message in front of the masses. I believe the JLP took the lead in this regard. They broadcasted, but they also listened, a function often ignored. It’s about engaging, not just talking, listening. Andrew responded to Tweets, and even made a video where he thanked everyone for engaging with him. He also had lighthearted moments where he shared poignant steps along his campaign trail. By sharing and including the people, responding to them and posting pictures with them, Jamaican’s bought into the process. They were apart of it. They identified with him.

Social also facilitated live updates, live feedback and a streamlined live blog of the process. It detailed what was taking place, where, in real time and allowed anyone tuned in to the hashtag #JAVotes2016 to feel and experience the overall sentiments of the population with digital DNA. It’s power for the sharing and collecting of information cannot be underemphasized.

To their credit, both parties attempted to use social media, the JLP more effective than the other because there was a clear understanding of what drives social media, the native use of the platform and what I call the ‘shareabilty’ factor. The use of memes, videos and party supporter testimonials helped to ground the messages being relayed by both parties and giving the voters more information to act on. In the void of national debates, social media held global debates, many becoming very heated.

Many pundits are saying that the election was won in the last 8 days. 8 days of boosted posts, clear, quick videos, responses, memes… and community photos with Andrew humanizing him even more, making him and his team much more open and warm in the eyes of the masses. I have yet to see posts, tweets, or consistent videos from the leader of the PNP. The point— politicians must keep your message in the eyes of the people. Social media is a natural avenue to direct attention as it’s where their eyes are 70% of the time anyways. That’s true people power. Respect it! Dust off your Clarks Andrew. Well done!