Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social media sites in the Philippines, have widely changed how politicians go about interacting with voters to get their messages across in the upcoming election.
Some politicians particularly senators, who must reach a national constituency during a political campaign period, have used Facebook and Twitter to interact with voters so they can disseminate their political platform in order to win their votes.
Politicians are aware of the huge campaign fund necessary to mount a credible election campaign and the use of social media is one way of reaching a wide segment of their constituents who are Facebook and Twitter users.
Using social media in a political campaign is the cheapest way to reach the voters for a candidate with national constituency.
Senatorial candidates who want to use social media in their campaign should be able to engage Facebook and Twitter users personally and not through a third party like their staff or somebody they pay to do the job on their behalf.
Interacting with Facebook users on the site is tricky as some users would know or may have a way of knowing, if a certain senator or politician is actually the one they are interacting with on the site.
It is very dangerous for a senator to delegate this to a third party as what many of them are doing now. Once the users discover that the candidate is not actually doing it, it could work to his disadvantage and it will spread like wildfire on the site.
The Philippines ranked No.8 in a latest count by socialbakers.com, the site that provides up-date statistics on social media entities.
United States has the most number of Facebook users with close to 170 million as of the first half of 2012, followed by Brazil and India in far second and third place respectively with close to 62 million users
Indonesia is No. 4 with 50 million while Mexico ranked fifth with 40 million followed by UK with 33 million and Turkey at No.7 with 33 million. Germany and France ranked No.9 and 10 respectively with 25 million users.
On Twitter, the Philippines ranked No. 10 in the list of countries with the most number of users according to semiocast.com
Semiocast revealed that 9.5 million out of Twitter’s 517 million users were from the Philippines, placing the country in the 10th spot in the worldwide rankings, trailing Spain but ahead of Turkey, inquirer.net reports.
Capitalizing on these usage data from the two most popular social networking sites in the country, politicians with national constituency stand to gain more mileage by merely using these sites to reach their target voters without spending millions to connect with them.
Some senators spend hundreds of millions to campaign nationwide. If a national candidate would carry a laptop on his campaign trail to engage Facebook and Twitter users, he could maximize his reach without spending millions of his campaign funds.
The Liberal Party at its "Rock The Vote" campaign around the Philippines. Noynoy Aquino shakes hands with supporters.
There are around 50 million registered voters in the country including the overseas absentee voters. With close to 30 million Facebook users, a senatorial candidate can connect to more than half of the electorate.
Not all Facebook and Twitter users though are eligible voters. But these users have built-in influence on the voting habits of friends and members of their families.
To capitalize on social media for maximum reach, a senatorial aspirant or anyone aspiring for a national elective position, will have to personally interact with these social networking site users. As mentioned earlier, these Internet users would normally know exactly who they are interacting.
Senator Koko Pimentel, one of the incumbent senators who is using Facebook to connect with his constituents is getting extra mileage compared to other senators who do not engage Facebook users who are potential voters in the upcoming election.
Pimentel makes it a point to engage a friend on Facebook who wish to have his or her views on certain concerns or issues heard. The young senator actually answers questions and gives his views on certain matters.
Pimentel's interaction with these potential voters have a multiplier effect as they would likely tell their close friends and relatives of their interaction with the senator.
Another senator who seems to personally engage her friends on Facebook is Sen.Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who also post comments in the first person.
Senators Legarda, Drillon, Escudero, Marcos, Pia and Allan Cayetano, among others, are active on Facebook but it appears they have someone else doing the posting for them.
All the senators have their Facebook accounts but many of them do not engage their Facebook friends. Some senators have so many friends on Facebook that more requests for "adding friends" are rejected.
Rejecting "Add Friend" request from users could turn off prospective voters as they would assume the candidates are evading them. What other politicians are doing is they get the users "subscribed" to his page the moment he reaches the maximum limit.
Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay, who is very active on Facebook and who is running unopposed (because of his Facebook addiction?), is engaging his constituents even if they are not his "friend" on Facebook but they get his messages because they are subscribed to his account.
The campaign advertisements on the streets of the Philippines
On Twitter, former Senator Alfredo Lim who is now Mayor of Manila, has been very active on Twitter and gets the kind of feedback he needs from instant information he gets from his tweets.
In the lower house Rep. Roilo Golez makes it a point to engage his friends on Facebook. He personally posts comments, answer questions and engages everyone in a friendly conversation.
There are other elected officials who are not mentioned here for lack of space who are likewise active and engaging on Facebook and Twitter and they deserved praises from their constituents for their noble acts.
It is unfortunate though that some elected officials refrain from interacting with the people they were sworn to serve. Most of our politicians have their own Facebook or Twitter accounts but they do not engage their constituents on issues that affect them.
If we could have elected officials like Koko Pimentel, Sen Meriam Defensor-Santiago, Rep. Roilo Golez, Gov. Joey Salceda and Mayor Alfredo Lim, who are not afraid to engage their constituents on issues that matter to them, we would be glad to get them reelected to their posts.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com