Singapore– Singapore is counting down to polling day on May 7, and several social media monitoring companies have created dedicated sites to provide trending terms and stats on campaigning parties as news and opinions about the elections are abuzz on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Swarm and JamiQ created a visualization chart in late April showing trending topics discussed online, along with the most shared articles circulated on the web. The tracker aggregates news articles and blog posts from Google and Twitter data.
Opposition party candidate Nicole Seah, a Starcom executive from the National Solidarity Party, has attracted more than 72,000 Facebook fan less than a month since she set up her page; however, Yin Shanyang, the principal engineer at Swarm who was instrumental in designing the data, pointed out that despite the supposed popularity, data results reveal she is only trending seasonally and not consistently at the top.
While Swarm and JamiQ have deliberately omitted offering a sentiment element to the social media chatter on the elections, Tribal DDB and Brandtology created a site called Party Time that consolidates news, blogs and conversations and includes automated sentiment scoring analysis of keywords related to the Singapore elections. It provides a snapshot of the number of positive and negative comments regarding individual parties and constituencies based on content from Twitter and key social networking sites.
Another social media monitoring company, Thoughtbuzz, which named its site onefiveseven, attempts to measure how social media is used in elections based on quantitative data, and has designed a heat map that features the most talked about constituencies across the country. The site also showcases social media profiles of individual political parties and candidates revealing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube data. Additionally, it uses Foursquare to give an overview of how many people have checked in to rallies.
For now, it is unclear how social media will impact the outcome of the votes. However, what has really changed is the amount of activity happening on Facebook and Twitter. Unlike the last elections in 2006, when American social networking sites were still nascent in Singapore, the spread of information online was limited to people blogosphere.
In Singapore, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled the country since its independence in 1965 and the mainstream media Singapore Press Holdings is reportedly known to follow a pro-government stance in its coverage of the elections. But this year, political parties and candidates were given the go ahead to use social media to reach out to voters. And the opposition parties were quick to leverage these platforms to get their voices heard.
Bernard Leong, a local social media practitioner, said he has noticed once politically apathetic friends posting messages from the Opposition, and said engagement through shared links and videos has increased since the last election.
There are more than 2.4 million Facebook users in the country, a majority of them between 18 and 44 years of age, according to Facebook stats firm Socialbakers. That represents more than half of the population residing in Singapore. Within this group are those born after 1975. Coined “Generation Y,” they represent one in four voters in the country. The voter segment is more exposed to alternative media such as social-political blog The Temasek Review, Mr Brown, a local blogger known for his social and political commentary of the city-state, and The Online Citizen, a social-economic blog focusing on political activism.
Social networking sites allowing individuals to share these views as well as their personal opinions easily has amplified the speed and engagement of such messages.