May 11th, 2011 by Mythreyi Krishnan under Commentary

A Social Media Cinderella Story

The 2011 general election in Singapore were concluded last week leaving in its wake the most hotly contested fight for the ballot in Singapore history.  Many people are calling this a revolutionary election not only because of the strength displayed by the opposition, but also due to the fact that Social Media has now fundamentally changed the way politicians campaign and connect with the people.

This time round, candidates have had no choice but to engage with the public through channels like facebook and twitter, especially the youth, many of whom were first time voters. Even this segment, which has been notoriously apathetic until now, is sitting up, taking notice and even participating (hallelujah!) in the exchange of ideas online

Nicole Seah (L)

This has resulted in overnight fame for candidates like Nicole Seah (L) who is now a household name and a favourite among young people. For a short period of time, she even became the most ‘liked’ politician on facebook surpassing the omnipresent Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore. Even though she has lost the election to Tin Pei Ling (R), another famous or rather infamous candidate, the online world is buzzing with praise for Nicole. This 24 year old has become such a sensation that the party she represents, NSP (National Solidarity Party) is now nicknamed the Nicole Seah Party.

A huge factor for her popularity is the online community that support and defend her through forums, blogs, twitter and facebook. This same community has lashed out at Nicole’s opponent, Tin Pei Ling labelling her as inexperienced and “boring”. One reason for this difference in treatment is perhaps the fact that Nicole is the underdog in this competition. A faction of the public feels that Pei Ling had an easy way in because of her connections to politicians. Also, she had the support of mass media outlets from the beginning of her campaign. This might have triggered the support that Nicole has received from various sides. Unfortunately, for Pei Ling the wave of criticism has not stopped despite her win. The blogs are afire with one netizen asking “why is tin pei ling in government while George yeo is not?” and openly jeering at the now ubiquitous photo of her clutching at a shopping bag from kate spade.

tweets

As for Nicole, she has the online community on her side. Using the JamiQ social media monitoring tool, we were able to measure this in a tangible manner and it was no surprise that netizens attributed more positive sentiment to Nicole’s campaign compared to Tin Pei Ling’s

Singapore was recently declared one the most “evolved” social media markets in the world. For thousands of Singaporeans, social media is not just a medium for news and information, but an integral part of their lifestyles which they use to “discuss social issues, arrange social gatherings, express their creativity, share family memories, create professional networks, do comparison shopping and decide what to eat buy and collect”. Now, it has even penetrated politics and is actively shaping how the government communicates with its people.

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