Instagram influencers put young in the picture about Budget

MOF aiming to involve young people in process through social media campaign

Property agent Cheng Kai Ting drew parallels between budgeting with her husband ahead of their wedding and the nation's Budget.
Property agent Cheng Kai Ting drew parallels between budgeting with her husband ahead of their wedding and the nation's Budget. PHOTO: KAITINGHEARTS/INSTAGRAM

What do pretty pictures and financial planning have in common?

Budget 2018, it seems.

In an effort to reach out to younger Singaporeans, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has paid for over 50 social media "influencers" to post on Instagram to promote the Budget process.

At least 30 posts by these young influencers have popped up in the past month, asking viewers to visit the Budget website or to share their feedback with Government feedback unit Reach.

Budget Day this year falls on Feb 19.

The influencers have anywhere from 1,300 to 35,000 Instagram followers. Some post photos of themselves at Reach's listening posts while others share photos of themselves looking at the Budget website on their phones, with captions about how the Budget relates to them. The posts are tagged as sponsored posts.

For example, blogger and property agent Cheng Kai Ting, who has 21,800 followers, put up a wedding picture and wrote about the importance of planning a budget with her husband for their future before signing their wedding certificate.

"Similarly, the Singapore Government has to plan the #SGBudget ahead to help us Singaporeans and support our businesses in the next Financial Year, and our President will pen down her signature as assent for the enactment of the Supply Bill."

An MOF spokesman said yesterday that the campaign is estimated to reach 225,000 Instagram users.

She did not want to say how much the ministry is spending on the campaign, except that it was in accordance with market rates.

"Given the significance of the Budget to all Singaporeans, MOF taps a mix of communications channels and platforms" to gather feedback and raise awareness, she said, noting that many younger Singaporeans obtain information online.

"This is an effective way to engage with youth participants," she said. She did not elaborate on how the ministry tracks the campaign's outcome.

MOF ran a similar influencer campaign for Budget 2017, on a smaller scale. This year, it worked with marketing company StarNgage.

StarNgage chief community officer Terrence Ngu said the ministry got in touch last November to discuss a campaign for Budget 2018.

It lasts for over a month with over 50 influencers, he said. They are expected to deliver an Instagram post each and share the Budget website link on their profiles, and receive token remuneration.

He added that the campaign's key performance indicator will be awareness. This is measured by the influencers' potential reach - meaning their follower count - and the likes and comments on their posts.

It is unclear yet if the strategy can achieve its aim of rousing interest among young people about the Budget process. While the individual posts have garnered hundreds of "likes", there are far fewer comments left, usually fewer than 20.

But stay-at-home mother Shanel Lim, 26, who has about 11,500 followers, said she feels posts like hers can help engage the younger generation, "as nowadays not everyone reads the newspapers or watches the news on TV or online".

Dr Brian Lee, head of Singapore University of Social Sciences' communications programme, said the ministry's media strategy to reach younger people is savvy, though social media has limitations.

"If it's about awareness, it will be effective. But it may not promote understanding or changes in attitude or behaviour," he said, adding that this may explain the low comment rate."But to generate awareness is a good start."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline Instagram influencers put young in the picture about Budget. Subscribe