If you have not know, the next big thing happening in Singapore, is the General Election 2011. This is a time where eligible Singaporeans get to vote and choose the people and leaders to represent them in the parliament, and Singapore. The polling day will be on 7th May 2011, when Singaporeans make their decision for the next government.
By the way, I’m not a politics blogger. As much as I’m very interested in politics as of now (& future of my country), I have no intention to turn my blog into a political blog. I believe there are much better blogs other than mine, who can cover way better news and opinions on politics. (:
In this year’s election, it is a whole new playing field. Many thanks to the introduction of new media (a.k.a traditional media + social media). Information regarding the elections are consumed in different forms. There used to be brochures, newsletters, banners, posters on walls. But now on top of that, we see Facebook pages, we see YouTube Channels, we see Twitter accounts, we see blogs…
Anyway, using social media for political campaigns is now new. Back in 2008, then-US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama has already used social media to reach out to his supporters. He has his dedicated YouTube Channel where his speeches and videos are uploaded. Millions of views are generated.
As the social media trend is rising, it cannot be neglected as a platform for garnering support for elections. Furthermore, Singapore with about 5 million population, has almost 50% of its people on Facebook. I’m not saying that all 2 million plus people can vote, since legal age to vote is 21. But if you would do some filtering , there are at least hundreds of thousands of eligible voters using Facebook.
Is Social Media effective for elections?
Before there is social media, we only rely on mainstream media to get our news, basically the radios, newspapers, television. But the sad thing is that our mainstream media is highly regulated by the incumbent PAP government. News coverage may not be as balanced and equal to covering news about contesting opposition parties. However, with the introduction of the new media, the playing field has been leveled.
Here are 2 articles I came across that writes about how social media has helped opposition parties in this year General Election.
How Parties Uses Social Media
If you are on Facebook (like me) during this period, you would have noticed that almost all contesting parties (ruling+opposition) are massively using Facebook for their campaigning. It is to an extent that I saw almost All new candidates of PAP have their own personal fan pages to get people to like and support them. This applies to opposition parties too, having their own candidate’s fanpage, and also a fan page for the area they are contesting.
Parties have also used YouTube as a means to broadcast their videos and speeches. Different parties have their own dedicated YouTube channel to showcase their candidates’ interviews and speeches. Twitter is also being used, to send out short messages, and spread news too. You can following the trending topic of #Sgelection here too.
What Parties did well on Social Media?
When this election period started, and as I’m already a social media addict, I have been following closely to how different parties use social media. This is also another experience for me, as I have only seen how companies use (or screw up) their marketing campaigns on social media, but not so much for political parties. So what did I think are some good activities parties did on social media? (Whatever is written below are just my opinions, and does not favor any party)
Being Personal on Social Media.
This is what social media is about. Be real and personal. The comments you post on Facebook shouldn’t be so formal like you are writing to your boss. If you post anything, it’s best to write to ‘one person’, instead of talking to all. Here are 2 examples of posts which I like most on how they talk to their fans, just like usual friends.
Above are 2 comments made by 2 candidates from 2 different parties. Look at how they post their updates. When you read it, you know they are human to you, they talk just like you, they are on same level with you. And this is very important if you want to get votes (ask any politician and you will know). You got to speak their language, and I would say both Ms Nicole and Mr Tan they did well.
How about lousy ones? Of course, there are some candidates who may not have mastered the skill of getting personal to people. I won’t be featuring them here, but they are very noticeable. I think you can find them out yourself 🙂
Engaging their fans
Ask any social media manager out there, they will tell you that the difficult thing to do on social media, is not setting up Facebook account, fan page, Twitter accounts, upload videos to YouTube. But what’s challenging is to know how to engage fans the right way, and turn them from fans into evangelists for your brand/company.
Same applies to different parties in this election too. Some parties and candidates did well by replying to constructive comments made by their fans. Some created Facebook groups to generate issues and discussions. I heard that some even chat with their Facebook friends, who stay in the area they are contesting. This is engagement.
I don’t think you need any examples here, because you would have known who are replying to you, and who are not.
What can parties improve on Social Media?
Don’t be a broadcasting center.
Broadcasting is a thing of the past. It is a one-way transfer of communication which we used to have. Simply a ‘I talk, You listen’ platform. Nobody loves that, and that’s why social media evolved so tremendously because, people want to talk too! I have seen some parties use their fan page like a broadcasting center.
They would just post lots of pictures of their day’s walkabout, and let comments flood in. They would just post an update of who they met, then leave it. Or they throw a random comment about a particular contestant, then leave it. Even though people can reply to your updates, but it’s still a one-way communication. They simply ignore if you are there or not.
However, here’s something important to note too. It doesn’t mean that they have to reply to every comment, then they are engaging their audience. If you would have seen, not all comments are constructive. Some are even defamatory. Some are jokes, some are pure ridiculous ones. Hence, what I do think would better would be replying to comments that raise important issues and questions, and ignore those which are meaningless. They would stand out from the ‘all-candidate-have Facebook-pages‘ crowd if they do this.
While Minister of Information, Communication & Arts, Mr Lui Tuck Yew says that online voices are ‘noises’, I think it’s not wise to regard all of these voices as ‘noise’. Some people do comment online, because it is the only available platform they can reach the candidate. Hence, it’s not wise to group them up and ignore them totally.
I do understand that as elections heated up, candidates are busy visiting residents in estates and markets. Hence, they might not always be online checking updates and reply. Thus, what I think can be done, is to have someone manning their account and feedback to them if there’s any important comments or issues.
So, Can Social Media & Politics Mix?
Other than Singapore, other countries have used social media in politics. The most recent case it being used as a tool to free the Egypt people. I would definitely say social media is a very effective tool in politics, however, it’s a double-edged sword too. It can stab you back if you are careless.
First time looking at how social media is part of politics here, I realized some things which applies to social media marketing in businesses, doesn’t apply to politics.
I have seen candidate fan pages have over 2000+ fans, but with almost 60% of people ‘like’ the page, so they can enter to criticize the candidate. Sure you can ban the user, but it’s almost mission impossible to do it when the number of people ‘vandalising’ your wall is faster than you banning them. This seems like a case where they have really many ‘raving’ fans.
I have also seen a trend of ‘dummy accounts’ being created, to ‘like’ a particular fan page, and enter to support or criticize the candidate. The reason can be as simple as that they wan to hide their identity or keep it anonymous. This can also be because they are the minority ‘supporters’ or ‘detractors’, so to prevent themselves being notified on the street, they use dummy profile. I hardly see such things happen, till now.
My final thoughts
I do really love social media, and really thank social media for being here at the right time for this general election in Singapore. This is especially important for a country where the mainstream media is highly regulated by the government, where political views are highly censored too. Social media levels the whole playing field of politics.
Some do criticize that social media or rather online platform is just full of shi* or angry voters who just want to plainly criticize the government, just want to complain and don’t want to take responsibility as a citizen. Yes. I do agree that there are people out there who just want to criticize the government no matter what. However, what I see is that, there won’t be flames, if there’s no fire.
I believe there must have been very deep concerns among the people in the lives as a Singaporean, to result in such a big wave of criticisms of the government online. This wave even cause a popular Singapore political site to have 50,000 visitors daily and got it’s server crashed. If any ruling party want to use the social media to reach out to gather votes for their election, I hope that they learn to use social media to address citizens’ concerns too.
*The write is a 22 year old undergraduate who is voting for the first time in this coming Singapore general elections. He is very excited about the elections, and the future of Singapore. This post is for informative purposes only, and does not represent the stand of the writer in this coming elections. If you have any comments, do share them below. Only constructive comments will be accepted. 🙂