Engaging Singapore Youths with Social Media

The Singapore General Election (GE) is happening today as I am writing this post. It is interesting to see youths getting involved and playing a part in deciding the political landscape in Singapore. Singaporean youths are always deemed as apathetic towards politics but this general election is proving otherwise. It is widely known that the Singapore media is tightly controlled by the government. MediaCorp and Singapore Press Holdings – the two largest media companies in Singapore are owned by Temasek Holdings (a government investment company). Thus, it is not surprising to see the incumbent party (People’s Action Party) gaining more media coverage during elections compared to the opposition parties.

So why is this GE different from the previous GE in 2006?
Social media.

Opposition parties are leveraging on the popularity of social media to engage younger voters.

1. Facebook
All political parties in Singapore have a facebook page to share its manifestos and visions for Singapore. Politicians are also ‘pressured’ into getting an account in order to connect with the younger voters.

http://www.facebook.com/pap.sg – Official Facebook page of the incumbent party

http://www.facebook.com/nicoleseahnsp – Official Facebook page of Nicole Seah (One of the youngest opposition candidate)

The Prime Minister of Singapore also conducted a webchat with other Facebook users during the campaigning period. Opposition candidate Nicole Seah is now the most popular politician in Singapore based on the number of likes on her facebook page overtaking Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Opposition parties also make use of their facebook pages to actively promote the highlights of their rallies which may have been overlooked by the mainstream elite media.

2. Twitter
Similar to Facebook, political parties also use Twitter in an attempt to engage youths and active social media users.

http://twitter.com/#!/nsp_sg – Singapore’s main opposition party’s Twitter page

On National Solidarity Party twitter page, it is updated daily to update the party’s supporters of their rally locations during campaigning period. It is also used to extract important quotes from the party speakers during rallies. It makes it easy for youths to obtain information in bite-sized pieces without having to spend three hours listening to the rally.

3. YouTube
I would say this is the best platform for overseas and busy voters to stay in touch with the election news at home. Rally videos are uploaded on a daily basis throughout the nine days of campaigning.

The video above shows Singapore’s youngest female candidate, Nicole Seah, campaigning for her party at a rally in Singapore.

It is interesting to see how social media is now playing a significant role even in politics. Social media creates a more level playing field especially for the opposition parties as it is largely unregulated. Opposition parties often face the challenge of getting positive coverage by the state-controlled media companies. Moreover, they don’t have to pay for using these platforms.

In an interview with BBC, opposition candidate Nicole Seah said, “These elections are a watershed for the reason that social media is emerging in a very strong way.”

We shall see if social media does play an impact in the election results later tonight.