We are days away from Singapore's presidential elections on 1 September and this week, presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song revealed that he will not be using physical posters and banners to raise awareness of his candidacy and cause. Rather, he will focus on social media in his campaign efforts. This is despite the fact that Ng's opponents, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Tan Kin Lian, have leveraged both physical posters and social media in their efforts to garner votes.
Ng told the media of his strategy during a walkabout at Amoy Street Food Centre on Wednesday afternoon. In it, he said that he does not have the manpower to hang posters up on lampposts. He added that using physical posters is environmentally unsustainable.
What’s the point of making posters and banners, hang them up for a few days, take them down, and then send them to be destroyed as waste?
He went on to add that he would be focusing on social media as his prime way to connect with votes and, primarily, the younger generation. “I feel that our young Singaporeans can share my message and talk about me to their parents and grandparents,” he said.
In the age of social media, focusing efforts online is certainly a good way to go about things. True enough, Ng, who has 100k followers on Instagram, regularly sees between 20k to 11 million views on his Reels. Ng also regularly goes on walkabouts at hawker centres and neighbourhoods to greet prospective voters. But is his strategy airtight considering that his opponents are utilising all possible channels? MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to previous general election candidates and industry professionals to find out more.
The social media population in Singapore
According to Meltwater, an estimated 5.08 million people, or 84.7% of the total population in Singapore, use an average of 7.1 social media platforms.
This, according to Jose Raymond, a communications strategist who was a candidate at the 2020 General Elections in the single member constituency of Potong Pasir, means that it is a fallacy to say that boomers are not active on social media or that they do not have access.
"Many of us will have that elderly family member who will send random messages on Whatsapp or Telegram, which have been forwarded many, many times," he said, adding:
Presidential candidate Ng Kok Song’s online and social media strategy should set the stage for how elections would and should be fought in future.
Raymond added that Ng is correct in his efforts to have elections run more sustainably as well "I applaud his move in taking the right step forward in pushing the agenda on electoral campaigning sustainability. In fact, all candidates should make public how their physical campaign posters will be disposed after the election period is over, not just for the current presidential elections, but for future general elections," he said.
Different candidates adopt different electoral strategies, and ultimately, we will only be able to assess the strategies of each, when the final votes are counted, he said, adding that perhaps, Ng should use the significant social media reach of his cat, Max Lemon Ng, a little more to get the attention of animal lovers.
Agreeing with him, Kevin Kan, chief experience officer at Break Out Asia noted that the population demographic of Singapore would indicate that the campaign team has got their strategy right.
"With almost three quarters of the voting population being social media savvy, having a campaign focused on social media makes sense," he said.
He noted that from a strategy perspective, if the campaign is going to focus purely on social media, then that this may be an opportunity for Gen Zs to influence their elderly grandparents or parents. A smart social media expert, he said, may create a call to action with the younger generation to talk to their grandparents or parents to consider Ng.
"An entertaining video would be watched by many elderly people through recommendations from Gen Z relatives for entertainment value but can also act as an influencing opportunity to vote for Ng," he added.
"Not having campaign posters is also environmentally friendly and may endear Ng to the Gen Z population. With his meet the people walkabouts and coffee shop campaigning, he will be able to reach those above 60 who may not be as social media savvy through physical presence," Kan added.
Adding on, Jude Foo, the general manager and partner at Nine:TwentyEight noted that while on a marketing front, Ng might be a little less visible in terms of exposure, we do have to consider that by virtue of a three-horse race, there is already plenty of earned media on all candidates. "This choice also supports his stance that he is an independent candidate without the party machinery or manpower so that consistent message could also help optics-wise," he said.
Saying that, there isn’t much time for Ng to really start engaging social users and considering the gravitas of a presidential election any ‘stunts’ might also backfire, said Foo. "He can probably continue using social channels to show people who he really is and continue hitting home a consistent message of his proposition," he said.
Foo also noted that Ng definitely needs to do more to reach out to older voters not only because he is not utilising traditional media, but because, from a political standing, he is the least known among the candidates.
"So definitely a lot of work to be done on-ground to convince hearts and minds. But social media and content has been played up quite a bit this time round with plenty of positive content from Shanmugaratnam and his supporters and unfortunately, some negatives from the Tan camp."
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