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Fighting for votes - not just on ground but online

Social media presence undoubtedly plays a large role in the ongoing elections.
Social media presence undoubtedly plays a large role in the ongoing elections. PHOTO: FACEBOOK
Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik working on a sand sculpture depicting drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi at Puri beach in India last Friday. Photos of Aylan lying face down on a beach in Turkey went public last week. The Twitter hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsan
Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik working on a sand sculpture depicting drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi at Puri beach in India last Friday. Photos of Aylan lying face down on a beach in Turkey went public last week. The Twitter hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, which means "humanity washed ashore", soon trended and many netizens took to the social media platform to share artistic representations of the impact of the tragedy.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Part of GE battle takes place on social media, with many voters monitoring official accounts

THE FIGHT FOR VOTES IN #GE2015

How big an impact do the popularity and perception of a politician or a party online have on votes?

While the answer remains to be seen, social media presence undoubtedly plays a large role in the ongoing elections.

To keep up with the twists and turns of the hustings, many voters have taken to monitoring official accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, to get the latest information straight from the source.

One recent example: PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling refuted MacPherson rival Cheo Chai Chen's assertions that her new role as a mother was a weakness, via a Facebook post.

The post, which touched on her commitment to build a Singapore which is more accommodating towards working mothers, had almost 7,000 likes and more than 1,000 shares within a day.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

A politician or party that consistently converses with the social media communities has a higher chance of establishing credibility that he or it does not just appear only during election season. Consistency helps with the messaging, positioning and campaigning efforts.

DIGITAL MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT RYAN LIM, from QED consulting

To a casual observer, it would seem that she had turned that perceived "weakness" into a strength.

Other politicians also jumped into the fray, making their positions on the issue known, in the hope that voters would get a better sense of the person slated to be pushed into Parliament.

This online cut and thrust has played out over many issues, from town council management to employment and policy decisions, and over many platforms such as Twitter and Instagram in the past few months.

"A politician or party that consistently converses with social media communities has a higher chance of establishing credibility that he or it does not just appear only during election season," said digital management consultant Ryan Lim from QED consulting. "Consistency helps with the messaging, positioning and campaigning efforts."

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • Here are the top issues collated over social media this past week by Digimind in relation to the general election:

    • Employability

    • Transport

    • Town council

    • Healthcare

    • Housing

It takes effort, this pumping out of content which ranges from statements on hot issues to selfies with residents.

With a population which counts its citizens as among the most active among social media platforms globally, it is not

enough that politicians do good, it seems they also need to be seen doing good.

And when it comes to personalities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is head and shoulders above the rest on social media, so much so that some observers point out that his online presence is not unlike his election posters, which have appeared across the island this past week.

His Facebook page has almost 850,000 likes. In a press release yesterday, Facebook data showed that PM Lee has had the most interactions this past week - which means likes, comments or shares of a post.

A point of note, however, is that interactions do not equate to sentiment, as comments can be either for or against the party or person.

The Prime Minister is trailed by Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, who has only about 9,000 likes but roughly a fifth of the interactions.

In both these accounts, only about 60 per cent of their fan base are Singapore-registered users, according to social analytics tool Socialbakers.

Aside from the politicians, those manning the respective party pages have also been getting into the act.

Socialbakers said all the political parties involved in these elections increased their Facebook postings by up to four times last month, compared with their usual monthly average in the lead-up to the hustings.

This activity has intensified even more the past week. The People's Action Party page pushed out an average of 30 posts a day, while the Workers' Party (WP) and SingFirst both pushed out an average of about 21 posts. But it was the WP which emerged tops when it came to interactions.

While free social media tools level the playing field somewhat, resource-rich individuals or parties are better able to take advantage of them in paying to promote their content.

So how will all this hard work factor into the coming elections? It is hard to guess now; everyone will likely have a clearer idea in a week or so.

THE POWER OF AN IMAGE

Photographs of drowned Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi have sparked many conversations online about the way the world views and treats refugee migrants. The photos, which show Aylan lying face down on a beach in Turkey, and his brother Galip, who also drowned, were first shared by a news agency last week. They provoked strong reactions around the world, with questions raised over whether enough was being done in Syria's refugee crisis.

The hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, which means "humanity washed ashore", soon trended on Twitter and many netizens took to the social media platform to share artistic representations of the impact of the tragedy.

Some Internet users have taken issue with the fact the graphic photo was shared in the first place, choosing instead to post a photo of the brothers in happier times as a form of remembrance.

ASK ME ANYTHING

A Singaporean immigrant who lived through the Japanese Occupation here was trending on news aggregator site Reddit last week for his insights and frank answers.

The online crowdsourced interview was facilitated by his relatives. It attracted more than 1,600 comments.

When asked what simple things he was thankful for, the 94-year-old replied: "World peace, there is much less war today."

Asked what he thought was the best human invention, he said: "Phones and aeroplanes."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Fighting for votes - not just on ground but online'. Print Edition | Subscribe