Looking at the outcome of the last senatorial elections, it seems that a lot of candidates went to social media to campaign. At the same time, social media was also used against some, for negative propaganda. However, it seemed that in my simple analysis, social media was not able to win an election for some, and some actually did not lose even with a lot of negative sentiments. Therefore, how important really is social media when it comes to brands, when in elections where social media is active, it was not able to influence its outcome?

You may be correct in saying that social media was not able to influence the outcome of the recent senatorial elections. I was monitoring it in social media, and using the results of the elections, did a regression analysis if the final tally has any correlation with the number of likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, or the number of mentions on the online space. The correlation is weak, and tells us that indeed, the volume of the numbers and performance on social media about a particular candidate may not be able to predict if they will win or not.

Candidates like Binay and Honasan have very few Facebook fans (less than 5,000), fared no worse than the likes of Legarda or Cayetano which have fans in the range of hundreds of thousands. Escudero trumped everyone by having the most number of Twitter followers at 120,000+, but fared no better versus Poe with only around 4,000 followers. Aquino and Binay dominated most of the mentions on social media, but obviously, one can see that Binay was attacked in social media while Aquino the other way. But in the end, Binay still emerged quite high in the rankings.

 

The exercise, while the sample size is small with only thirty-three senatorial candidates, tells us three fundamental principles about social media. First is that social media is not predictive but indicative. If you want to really determine or have a gauge of who will win in the elections, you should have to use the traditional surveys. Same with brands, in that if you want to have a real snapshot of how you are performing in the market, a traditional survey or UAI is the best bet. Thus, you may ask why take the trouble of looking at social media if you cannot use it for making decisions. On the contrary, I will argue that doing quantitative surveys take time and money, while doing social listening allows you to get a dipstick on how people think about your brand and what they are saying about your brand. In the end, using a combination of traditional surveys and regular social listening analysis is the best way to go.

 

Second, social media should always be used in conjunction with other marketing tools. I always remind marketers to look at social media only as one of the tools in toolbox, and use it only if necessary and when need arises. In a national election, social media dominance cannot promise a win only because the scale required, to generate awareness, likability, and eventual vote, would require the synergy of using other media tools. In the recent election, we all saw how great Casino’s campaign was on social media, but without enough mass media firepower, it is hard to generate awareness for his cause.
Third, social media assets require a certain runway for it to be effective. I don’t think we still need to argue the efficacy of social media and how having a good follower base, whether on Twitter or Facebook, can help candidates or brands. The challenge however, is to build the runway early on. Many candidates start building their following on social media three months before the elections. This will not work as the people who have liked the page have not warmed up to the candidate yet. I would seriously recommend to any aspiring politician who has any plans to winning the 2016 election to start building their social pages and following now, because come election season, they will definitely have a head start against everyone. The same principle applies to brands, in that relationships with consumers cannot be created by a mere transactional promotion, but by consistent relationship-building over time.

 

Donald Lim is the Chief e-Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines.  Donald will conduct a seminar-workshop entitled 11th Digital Marketing Plan on September 19-20, 2013.  Please email info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 / 412-0034 or text (+63) 918-81-168-88. You can also send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.