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How politicians can get started on new media

How politicians can get started on new media

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With these 5Cs, politicians can more effectively master social media as an engagement tool, says Ryan Lim, business director of social media consultancy firm Blugrapes.

Avoid ending up like Tin Pei Ling. Photo: SPH

POLITICIANS should approach social media like a courtship. Start slowly, first wooing your voters and attracting them to you. Once you have established trust, engage your followers and get to know each other better. Finally, make a long-term commitment with them and ask them to put their faith with you.

For politicians who have not yet gotten on the social media bandwagon, here are some guidelines on how to start:

Content – Planning content is the most important thing when entering any social media platform. Know what you want to share with your voters. They wish to understand your views on key political issues, as well as your personal and party manifesto. Top scores will go to politicians who allow their personality to shine through, revealing a human side to politics, rather than a faceless party.

Community – Leverage upon the social media platform that the majority of your targeted voters are on. Platforms such as Facebook and Foursquare have targeting tools, which can be used to your advantage. You can also benefit by localising your messages and organizing events. Not all voters are equal, and you may wish to focus your limited resources on winning a few key voters over, who can then have a positive multiplier effect on the masses.

Benefits of using social media

Technology-savvy politicians can leverage upon social media to complement their engagement efforts. The main benefits of using social media for politics include:

Cost – Online rally platforms are faster to create and cheaper to operate. This levels the playing fields amongst all parties, as the more established politicians with deeper pockets no longer hold an advantage.

Constraints – Unlike the number of rally sites in Singapore, real estate in social media is virtually unlimited. The public can see opinions and discussions, allowing them to understand about new candidates and what they believe in. With viral marketing, they can also see what their trusted networks are following.

Communication – Social media allows candidates to engage directly with their voters, building up personal relations in an easy and safe manner. Voters can virtually follow candidates, through updates on platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.

Conversation – Talk to your voters; not down at them. Social media is about being social, so interesting conversations are important. Welcome anyone who has taken the time to connect with you. There is no better endorsement than unsolicited praise from your supporters, so do remember to thank them! With social media, everyone will be able to see good and bad comments. There will always be instances when people will not support you. However, never abuse or attack them. Take it in your stride and respond graciously, remembering to accept and learn from their views.

Care – Show that you care for the welfare of your voters. Respond to their needs and concerns. While it may be tempting to use social media as a broadcast platform, vague and general responses will show a lack of sincerity. So be prepared to spend time engaging with voters on a one-to-one basis.

Commitment – Any social media effort requires long-term commitment to sustain what was started, and should never be used for immediate and temporary gains. Do not launch a Facebook page just to garner votes, only to let it become a ghost town once you’ve been elected. Sustain the community that has been built up over the duration of your tenure. This is a community that is interested in you, and can be used as an effective forum for governance and as a feedback channel on policies and engagement.

Exciting times ahead

The 2011 General Election in Singapore was an exciting event. It was the first time that Singaporeans voted during the social media era. Social media became the platform to showcase and disseminate information for public consumption. Those parties that were able to do this well were able to galvanize their supporters, engage the public and win their votes.

The emergence of “citizen reporters”, the viral spreading of messages over social media platforms and the ability for parties to really engage with the people resulted in the rapid and effective dissemination of information. Overall, the rise of social media in Singapore resulted in a more balanced coverage of political issues.

This article is contributed by Ryan Lim, Business Director of Blugrapes, a leading social media consultancy firm based in Singapore. The company has a track record of launching and maintaining social media solutions for organisations including Fortune 500 consumer brands across 15 industries. In Singapore alone, over 1 in 20 Singaporeans would have engaged in any one of Blugrapes’ social media solutions.