By Pola E. del Monte
YOUR CANDIDATE is now online. Political campaigning has expanded beyond the realm of TV, radio, and print media. Today, candidates are on the internet, delivering their platforms via network bandwidth, projecting their image through bytes of data.
Advertising guru Reli German, who has been steeped in political campaigning since the time he produced commercials and jingles for the late President Ferdinand Marcos, says that social media is a “very effective medium.” He said of the modern technology, “it is immediate, responsive, and reaches the youth because they comprise a large segment of the voters population.”
Mr. German, who is also credited for Erap jokes that may have helped increase Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s popularity, added that using puns in hashtagging (#TatakboNaPOE, etc.), adds to the appeal of social media campaigning. “Filipinos have a sense of humor,” he explained. “Humor endears and makes [the message] more personal.”
Social media strategist Ros Juan, one of the people behind viral community collaborations such as #rescuePH, believes that social media will play a bigger role in electoral campaigns this year.
She cited a compendium of global digital statistics entitled “Digital, Social & Mobile in 2015,” by Singapore-based ad agency We Are Social. It reported that out of the Philippines’ 100.8 million population, 44.2 million are active internet users. There are 40 million active social media accounts.
The report further cited that on average, six hours and 17 minutes are spent by internet users on a tablet or PC daily, while three hours and 19 minutes are spent browsing the web via mobile phone by mobile internet users. Social media users consume four hours and 15 minutes on social media via any device. Users reported that of all social networks, they spent most of their time on Facebook (21%), then Google+ and Twitter (both at 13%).
Ms. Juan acknowledges that radio, television and print media still have the wider reach across the country. But social media’s edge is its accessible and democratic nature.
“Anchoring on a certain emotion makes the subject more human and more relatable,” said Ms. Juan. As an example, she pointed to the success of the #Aldub phenomenon, the popular “love team” on a noontime show, which during the past weekend recorded 12 million tweets. The love team, she explained, taps real emotions (particularly kilig, the “thrill” factor) that resonate with audiences across all ages. For political ads, she pointed out, the usual emotion is pity (“Aww, kawawa kami dati”).
According to her, these emotions are what makes a post “shareable.” She said, “it is a misnomer that we can ‘make’ a viral video. There are no hard and fast rules.” What can be done, she said, is “quality work that can be shared.” People share what they can relate to. Still, she cautioned, “there is a thin line between what seems authentic and what seems contrived.”
To be sure, candidates may seek help from professionals. Ms. Juan said that most get the social media leverage together with their packages from ad agencies, and costs can go from the hundred thousands to the millions for the entire campaign period. This includes strategy, execution, placing ads that will promote a social media channel, and may include social seeding — an online marketing process where quality content is showcased, or “seeded,” on visible online platforms like blogs, social aggregation sites, and social communities. Influencers, she said, can be tapped to seed promotions for a candidate, like placing an ad (You may want to check the mock accounts of Mexican telenovela antagonists).
As early as now, Erika Sarmiento, who set up Insights and Ideas Qualitative Consumer Research Consultancy, a market research firm, is being already tapped by would-be candidates.
According to her, conducting market research every year is important as research results vary every electoral period. Voters’ preferences and concerns, she said, change over time, sometimes directly affected by the satisfaction with the performance of outgoing candidates. As an example, she cited that the long years of Marcos’s dictatorship made people clamor for freedom and democracy, which made Corazon Aquino the most wanted replacement.
For the next election, transparency will be a primary consideration of voters, after seeing how politicians have disappointed their constituents by turning out to be corrupt.
Another factor could be current events. For example, as the issue of climate change has entered the public’s consciousness and as a result, a candidate that has something on this issue in his/her campaign agenda may have a greater chance of appealing to voters.
“There’s a different kind of communication management involved, compared to other promotional platforms,” Ms. Sarmiento said. “The medium is impactful if the public image of a candidate is continuously represented and handled accordingly — striking a balance between delivering factual content or information and messages or updates that will build the candidate, while creatively accommodating and engaging the audience in ways that strike a chord and keep them interested.”
The responsibility of managing a politician’s social media presence — election season or not — falls on the lap of their media offices, whose staff are paid with the taxpayers’ money.
A former media staffer of a government official revealed that election preparation begins “at least” one year before the big day. Whether the official has announced his or her candidacy, the social media account is already anchored on the aim of boosting the official’s reputation: promote positive content and kill negative content.
The ways to do this can easily become dirty. An independent candidate may seek to get non-constituents to follow his page in exchange for between P5,000 and P10,000. Candidates may hire people whose service is to contribute an specific number of likes through bots or fake accounts. These fake accounts serve another purpose: attack the comments against the candidate, or drown them out by posting more positive comments.
Expect more photo stories between 9 and 11 a.m. These are the critical hours where staff post the stories they want to be talked about during the day, those they want to trend.
Of course, the post has to be shareable, and while there is no formula, the primary consideration is the headline. If the concern of people, for example, is battling corruption and the post’s headline announces that, then the post is shared — even if the rest of the story does not say how the government official waged war against corruption.
On social media after all, people find long posts TL;DR (too long; didn’t read), and the “share” button is always in reach.
“It’s all about the headline,” the former media staffer lamented. “Voters on social media can be gullible.”the
Photo credit: Milky-DigitalInnovation and Stockxpert