9 ways PAP can engage people online

Posted on 24 October 2011

The Government can manage a $200-billion-a-year economy, but keeps getting owned online. NewNation.sg shows the noobs how to do it right.

By Belmont Lay

Even Kim the meme gets in on The Internet

If you recall, at the opening of the 12th Parliament a couple of weeks ago, President Tony Tan was flummoxed in his maiden speech (which is actually written by the Government and read on behalf by the president) about how to go about using “the new media constructively“.

Note how lost the ruling elites really are when it comes to anything online: The moment Tony referred to “new media” as “the new media”, like how really old and out-of-touch people tend to refer to new, modern, contemporary things using the definite article as in “The Blackberry”, “The Facebook”, “The Zouk”, you know at once he and the potentate are clueless about what they are talking about.

And the term “the new media” was repeated no less than three times in one paragraph. So, to allow the gleaming white ones to get some footing in treacherous territory, NewNation.sg has graciously done up 9 simple guidelines for these Internet noobs. Ignore at your own peril.

Scoring points with the Internet crowd, in style.

1. Get personal

Engage people on an up close and personal basis. Not on some ministry level, governmental level or even party level. It is all about talking to. Not talking down. No hamming and hawing. No dodging please, and make do with as little motherhood statements as possible. That means you might just need to own a blog, a Facebook or Twitter account. And update it regularly. With personal insights preferably. Anecdotal works just fine.

George Yeo used to update his Facebook page a lot with pictures of him relaxing, going to some fancy pants dinner party or being photographed with Andre Bocelli. And people dig this kind of voyeuristic stuff. Because they’ll feel like a big part of your lives.

2. Tell people what you think. Not what your bosses or colleagues want to hear.

When you personally disagree with what whatever ministry or MP is on about, you can do two things: Lie or tell the truth.

Either way, make it interesting and your personal stand clear.

Yes, yes, I know there is such a thing as a party whip. Even Workers’ Party has one, I believe. But the idea of getting clearance from the party with regards to airing an opinion couched in innocuous terms? Puh-lease… That’s so like what, 1965?

3. Contradict yourself and your peers. Even better, repudiate whatever you cannot agree with.

Diversity is great, because that is what people want. Because people perceive themselves as wanting to appear gallantly galloping through robust terrain. And robustness comes in the form of overlapping, multi-layered even differing standpoints.

Show people you can change your mind. Again and again. And again. It’s all about timing.

Need to repudiate a stand you took in the past? Sure, do it! But don’t do it too often like every week. You’ll just look schizophrenic.

Maybe, once every six months.

4. Hire someone to engage online on your behalf.

Too busy or feel too important to communicate through social media? Consider hiring an assistant.

A backbencher in parliament these days get paid, like what $15,000 a month, give and take? How much does it take to hire someone to update your blog, Facebook or Twitter account for you?

Even local banks these days hire professional marketers to make them look wealthy enough to hand out loans or convince you to buy structured products.

Yes, you have important meet-the-people sessions. Yes, you have a full-time job besides being a parliamentarian.

But remember: You can never, ever feel that you are above Facebooking or tweeting. That’s a sin.

Still think having someone else do it on your behalf is insincere? Sure, but it’s fair game as long as you don’t let other people find out.

5. Laugh at yourself.

So, there is a new spoof of you on YouTube? You can do four things in response: Ignore it, ignore it, ignore it or laugh at it. Pick the latter. You would look open-minded.

6. Tell people exactly how much you make.

Money is always a sensitive issue. But if it is public money, do us all favour and spill the beans.

7. Allow people to comment/ bite back. 

The next thing to do is to pray real hard that your peers, supporters and the PAP Internet Brigade will come to your rescue.

If they don’t, don’t be shy. Plead for them to play nice.

8. Engage online opinion leaders – mainly.

Oh yes. Did you know that the online world, like the REAL world has a hierarchy. You don’t have to talk to everyone. Identify who the leaders are and target them.

There are leaders among leaders even, you know?Treat them well, respect their views but don’t be too smarmy. Because you really can’t expect people to defend you robustly online if you cannot keep friends close and enemies closer, no?

9. Lastly, be subtle.

So this is how you poke... Photo: CNA

Internet doublespeak, implicit knowledge, insider jokes, running jokes, slights…

See, the trick is to be as subtle as you can without causing widespread misunderstanding.

Yes, the Internet is a treacherous place, if and only if… *drum roll please*… you are always offline.
So, for people in the know, they will be in the know.

So join the fray! Look like you’re connecting without having some official mainstream media blitz about so-and-so signing up for a personal Facebook account or photographed in public using an iPad.

That’s just pathetic. And subtlety isn’t the forte of the mainstream media sometimes.

Or authoritarian states.

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