CAN Facebook make or break a campaign?

The election this year is a special event in the history of the Philippines, the first automated elections, making a leap forward in the world of technology.

 

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The automated elections are not only a time for advancement for the election process but also for the electoral campaign.

For local politics, the change has been felt by candidates and voters alike. Campaign styles have varied through the years and politicians grapple with the changes in trying to keep pace both with technology and with the voter’s choice.

What Changed?

Politicians have now left the “kissing-babies-in–the-crowd” strategy of using social networking sites for visibility.

Ferdie Balanag who is how handling the campaign of a congressional candidate says 10 years ago, candidates had very limited campaign styles.

“When availability of technical and media tools and gadgets like digital cameras, video etc. were limited, candidates and supporters had to visit each and every barangay and do exhausting legwork,” he said.

Social networking sites have become a necessity for candidates nowadays.

With the nine million Filipinos maintaining a Facebook account, the easiest way to get to a voter is to make them your “friends.”

Data from digitalfilipino.com reveal Facebook for Philippine-based users yields around 611,000 to 612,000 log-ons daily.

With the majority of user’s women at 353,000 in the age group 18 to 34 years old, the social networking site is dominated with college students or yuppies.

Balanag said Facebook is quickly becoming a necessity for every candidate but its scope and reach in the Cordillera is limited only to those who have access to the internet.

“The interaction on FB is also limited to comments on wall posts and photos,” he said.

Balanag cites one instance when the issue about the sale of the Baguio Athletic Bowl brought about hundreds of comments posted on an FB account created specifically for that issue.

Through FB, people expressed their anger and sentiments regarding the matter. “It resulted in a plan to stage a massive protest. Out of the hundreds of people who expressed their anger and willingness on FB to support the protest, only a handful showed up for the protest.”

Balanag says the best way to attract voters would be to launch an intelligent campaign that present feasible solutions to problems and issues plaguing the city.

“I think, a physical connection between voter and candidate is still the best way to gain votes. Being with the people, and talking to them on a more personal basis is still the best campaign. Also through well planned advertising and presence in tri-media, more supporters could be attracted.”

Karlo Altomonte, another expert who is handling the campaign of another congressional candidate said “since Facebook is the most popular social networking site on the internet now, yes, a candidate has to have one.”

Altomonte adds the best thing about not just Facebook, but the whole Internet in general, is that it’s interactive.

“The audience [can] click on what they want to hear or see, and with another click of the mouse, delete, or share, or comment on the material. But it has its pitfalls also - it is now much easier and cheaper for black propagandists to spread dirt, lies and the like to discredit a rival candidate.”

Altomonte recalls in 2004 nothing has really changed “as far as concepts and themes are concerned. But every so often, technology provides us with new avenues to communicate ideas to the people.”

“Turning a slideshow into an interactive PowerPoint presentation. With the availability of LCD projectors, a candidate can be virtually present in several venues at the same time,” he said.

Altomonte said “I never believed in so-called ‘gimmicks’... I am a voter too and I don’t want to be taken for a ride. Truth in advertising, that’s a concept I subscribe too. So whatever the medium, I am all for truth being effectively communicated to the people. I guess that’s the best way to attract voters - tell them the truth. It may win you an election or not, but whatever the outcome, you’re at peace with yourself.”

The experts have spoken on how to handle the political campaign utilizing the every medium available, however, both agree sincerity and honesty still plays well with voters, nothing beats the real thing.