The recent general elections has seen a shock victory for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). However, unbeknownst to all, some PAP members of parliament had hired digital consultants to help them “win the battle” on social media.
Digital consultants Natasha Zhao, 29, and Freda Kwok, 27, have claimed that among their clients are 6 PAP MPs – all of whom rode the PAP swing into parliament. 3 of these MPs hold ministerial portfolios, including one Senior Minister of State.
The MPs’ digital strategy? They identify and recruit residents who support them early in their campaign and then have these digital consultants advise them on the dos and don’ts of online campaigning.
They also listen in on online conversations and let these residents know what kind of action is needed. Online analytical tools also let stakeholders know what sort of content resonates with netizens. For instance, posts about personal thoughts and insights into a candidates’ personal life get 3 times more likes, comments and shares.
Supporters would usually post replies from genuine social media accounts, maintain an objective tone and share personal experiences. A rule of thumb is also to avoid any personal attacks on other netizens.
Consultants would also suggest responses that candidates should take with regards to issues or a cause.
Ms Zhao and Ms Kwok, both from QED consulting, decline to reveal how much the MPs paid. Digital consultants can charge up to $150 an hour.
Mainstream media reporters attempted to solicit responses from the other parties over the kind of digital campaigning that they employed this election. However, most parties were noncommittal about their efforts. The Workers’ Party declined to be interviewed, while questions sent to the Singapore Democratic Party went unanswered.
People’s Power Party founder Goh Meng Seng says his party does most things on its own. “Our time and resources are limited and our supporters understand that. Our content also feels more authentic.”
Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) chairman Desmond Lim says his party’s efforts include actively monitoring comments on its Facebook page, which is regularly updated. “It is important that comments do not steer mindsets in the wrong direction and dilute the essence of what SDA stands for,” he says.