Government agencies reaching out to the young as habits change

Last year, newly-wed blogger Lian Meiting wrote about deciding on a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat as her first home, encouraging her Instagram followers to check out a video to learn more about BTOs.
Last year, newly-wed blogger Lian Meiting wrote about deciding on a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat as her first home, encouraging her Instagram followers to check out a video to learn more about BTOs.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM / LIANMEITING

Government agencies have quietly and increasingly tapped social media influencers to reach younger Singaporeans as media consumption habits change.

Last January, newly-wed blogger Lian Meiting wrote about deciding on a Build-To-Order flat as her first home, encouraging her Instagram followers to check out a video to learn more about BTOs.

Her post was accompanied by a hashtag #sp, suggesting that the post was sponsored.

In 2016, musician Sandra Riley Tang, who is also a fitness influencer, invited her followers to a community run and boot camp in a post made in partnership with the Health Promotion Board.

According to estimates by media and analytics companies, over half of the the people in Singapore who use Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform, are aged between 18 and 34 years old.

Ms Althea Lim, chief executive of influencer marketing company Gushcloud, said government agencies started using influencers as early as in 2013. Over the past three years, Gushcloud has worked with at least five government agencies here on various campaigns. It declined to reveal which were the agencies.

Ms Lim said influencers are typically engaged to create awareness about a topic instead of explaining it, as they are often not experts in the subject matter.

 

Ms Evangeline Leong, director of influencer marketing technology platform Kobe, said the National Youth Council has also worked with influencers. Last July, influencers were sponsored to promote the council's Youth Expedition Project on their Instagram accounts.

The Government's use of influencers extends beyond generating awareness and getting feedback.

Noting that social media can be an effective mobilising platform, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Communications and Information are working with social media influencers to reach out to a wide cross-section of the community in the event of an attack, said an MHA spokesman.

Through responsible and objective reporting, they can help to play a part in rallying the nation to stay united, added the spokesman.

He said: "(They) can help encourage socially responsible online behaviour, such as not spreading false information and referring to official sources for information."

Lecturer Wong Pei Wen of Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, said that with changes in media consumption habits, "government agencies cannot risk losing relevance with younger electorate".

Globally, influencer marketing is a growing industry projected to reach US$5 billion (S$6.6 billion) this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 21, 2018, with the headline 'Reaching out to the young as habits change'. Print Edition | Subscribe