The months leading up to the historic May 9, 2016 elections were special for several reasons. It was arguably the “most social” election in our history, as supporters took to social media to campaign for their chosen candidates. It also featured possibly our youngest decision-making population, with under-30s comprising a large section of the voting public.
Not coincidentally, this is a demographic set commonly associated (correctly) with the massive usage of social media in the Philippines.
The best efforts grabbed attention through consistent uniformity.
The stage was set for the May 2016 elections to be one that was defined by social media usage. A month on, we can take a look at the best – and worst – practices of candidates, their support groups, and even observers and see what we can learn from their triumphs and failures.
- CONSISTENT, ULTRA-RECOGNISABLE BRANDING. In an average day, social media users are typically exposed to up to 1,500 pieces of content though only 300 are really consumed (seen and possibly interacted with).
In this narrow window of opportunity, candidates and support groups ensured their talismans were immediately recognisable as one scrolls through a news feed. From colour palettes, to profile photo frames, to hashtags, the best efforts grabbed attention through consistent uniformity.
Best examples: Rodrigo Duterte’s #DU30 hashtag; Leni Robredo’s “slippers”.
- MICROINFLUENCERS RATHER THAN CELEBRITY ENDORSERS. Surprisingly for a celebrity-crazed nation, it was not the candidates with the typical and traditional “influencer supporters” that won the conversation game on social media.
It was the candidates with small-in-following but numerous-in-numbers independent supporter groups that eventually turned the tide of conversations on social media.
This may have had the effect of “owning” the conversation spaces – and with the limited content users are exposed to, we can assume that this in turn at the very least helped with name recall for candidates.
Best examples: Rodrigo Duterte’s Facebook groups; Dick Gordon’s Millennial fans
- AGILE STRATEGY TO LEVERAGE ON MOMENTS. Social is unlike other disciplines in that it works best when used at exactly the right moment – telling exactly the right story. It needs speed, lots of it, to be effective and meaningful.
Many candidates lost out on social conversations because they were far too slow to respond to commonly talked about topics on social. The ones that became endearing (no matter how fleeting) to the public were the ones with either actions or statements that immediately followed a trending piece of news or social issue.
Best examples: Mar Roxas on road closures; Leni Robredo on public commuting
- DISTINCT LACK OF BRAND PERSONA. It’s not a bad idea to have an entire marketing team manage one’s brand on social. However, each and every person involved with content creation and/or engagement should “speak” as one, humanised brand.
It becomes impossible to communicate and thus form a genuine relationship between brand and audience if it’s evident that we are speaking with an unconcerned “admin” of a brand page.
Worst offender: Mar Roxas’ multiple admin responders.
- NO CRISIS MANAGEMENT RESPONSE IN PLACE. A huge part of being successful on social is having a clearcut crisis management framework. News, good and bad, have the potential to travel like wildfire on digital space – and more so on social media.
It’s just impossible to “stop the printing press” when it comes to social, and so a response framework against positive, neutral, or negative conversations should be prepared well ahead of time for any campaign. Candidates with little to no crisis management frameworks in place eventually suffered negative sentiments on social conversations and may have lost votes due to poor reputation.
Worst offenders: Jojo Binay’s corruption scandal; BBM’s wealth issues
- ALMOST NO PRESENCE ON SOCIAL SPACE. For a country noted as a top ten Facebook population and “the social media capital of the world”, it is baffling that there were candidates who chose to not focus efforts on social media.
It’s one thing to use social media poorly; it’s quite another to almost have zero presence on this most ‘crowded’ of communication channels. We can safely assume that if “out of sight, out of mind” is even remotely true, then perhaps the low votes received by candidates who campaigned a lot more offline than online were justified.
Worst offender: Jojo Binay
In summary, the May 2016 Elections have clearly shown us the powerful impact social media has on everything from decision making to reputation management.
As brand guardians, agency partners, and digital marketers in general, we can learn through our candidates’ do’s and don’ts in order to make social media usage a boon for our brands and businesses, rather than a bane to our communication efforts.
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