There is no doubt that 2015 is the year that social media shapes up to be one of the key battlegrounds of Singapore’s General Elections, from fuelling rumours about a contesting party’s strategy to influencing a candidate’s decision to step down.
With only two more days of campaigning, how are the respective parties contesting #GE2015 on social media?
Worker’s Party and People’s Action Party lead the race
Unsurprisingly, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Worker’s Party (WP) have been leading in terms of volume of mentions since 2 September, when the rallies started. This is partly due to the massive coverage on mainstream media like The Straits Times and Channel News Asia, as well as both parties actively promoting themselves on social media.
As of 6 September, at the halfway mark of the elections, the top 5 issues are: employability, Central Provident Fund (CPF), transport, the town council controversy, and housing.
These hot-button topics are most likely to be more widely debated in coming week, and politicians should definitely pay attention to how the are being discussed by both their competitors as well as the community on social media.
However, it’s not just about the parties and rallies, but also the respective candidates and how well they’ve managed to win the hearts of social media, while standing out from their competitors.
Have Singapore’s political candidates matured on social media?
Digimind found that out of 183 candidates studied, 28 of them, mostly from outside PAP and WP, still lack virtual presence on Facebook, possibly preferring to ride on the followings of their respective parties’ Facebook pages. 36 still prefer to use their personal Facebook accounts instead of creating a separate Page for campaigning purposes.
Interestingly, while it may seem counter intuitive to list oneself as a Community Organization, it could also be a strategic move to align oneself with his or her respective ward, while connecting with the community – as is the case for Eemeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
While Facebook and Twitter remain the biggest platforms for GE2015 related conversations, many politicians have taken to Instagram to woo their constituencies.
Half the candidates with Instagram accounts listed have posted at least 1 time on the social media platform between 2 and 6 September:
Interestingly, less than half of these Instagram users have posted on Twitter during the same period, showing an obvious preference for the former:
Instagram has evolved from being just a photo sharing platform, to one where candidates can share stories about their campaigns while engaging with their community with both words and images. Evidently, politicians have recognized this advantage and are trying to leverage it.
To lead on social media, it is crucial to not only be active during a campaign, but to have a well established and active presence even before it begins. In Sylvia Lim’s case, posting something controversial at a time of speculation and tension drew attention to her Instagram page.
With less than a week to go before Polling Day, the General Elections are certainly becoming an intriguing battleground, both online and offline. Social media has definitely grown to be more than a platform for conversations, as sophisticated levels of campaigning and engagement have emerged compared to 2011.