Will social media clout translate to votes in 2013?

Posted at 10/17/12 8:31 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Many politicians are already active on social media, with some of them hoping to use it for mileage in the 2013 mid-term elections.

During the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs), some candidates have said they will tap social media in their campaigns, calling it the “great equalizer” in their electoral bids.

But political analyst and image-maker Malou Tiquia says translating social media presence to votes is not an easy task.

Tiquia says candidates should have a set of clear-cut tactics on how to utilize social media throughout the campaign period.

“They have to study the terrain. Second, they have to study whether the strategy can complement the traditional one. Because it's very easy to have a Twitter and Facebook page but if the content is not fresh and engaging, and the language is badly written, you will not be able to grow exponentially your base. It's a strategy of whether is it an awareness strategy, a mobilization tool, an organizational tool or is it just messaging?” Tiquia said.

Traditional campaign

While University of the Philippines professor Danilo Arao points out that the use of social media is prevalent in urban areas, he believes politicians and candidates should not discount traditional campaigns just yet.

“Social media could be useful in information dissemination but recent studies show that television is still the most powerful medium. If you look at the bigger picture in the Philippines, we are largely agricultural and recent studies show only 3 out of 10 people have internet access,” he said.

For political blogger Nik Skalomenos, proper engagement and authenticity are the keys to harnessing social media into a candidates' campaign.

“It doesn't necessarily mean you have to read what everybody says to you but at least articulate your positions, what you stand for and discuss with people calmly, coolly, and collectedly. Because a lot of people on social media now are educated, they are now getting even more discerning in terms of what comes out. So be authentic, be engaging and at least be interesting too,” he said.

The magic of social media

Tiquia offers a simple way of gauging how effective a political campaign is on social media.

“The more colorful and interactive the engagement is, the better for you. My number 1 rule is: Is there a post where there is a thread? If you have a status on Facebook and there's no thread, that’s a problem. The magic of social media is engagement and content,” she said.

Arao adds that the emerging trend of fact-checking among netizens can also play a crucial role in the 2013 campaign.

“Right now we see the growing culture of fact-checking among the social media community and among bloggers. I think this will play a major role in the coming elections, given that a senator’s speech, for example, can be fact-checked and you can see allegations of plagiarism. I think if we sustain that kind of culture, we'll have more vibrant elections and I think politicians will be more careful in what they say,” he said.
But more than using it for political campaigns, Skalomenos believes social media has the potential to change the political landscape in the years to come.