The pioneer in world of cyber journalism in Malaysia or even South East Asia is the Late MGG Pillai and his mailing list – discussion forum “Sang Kancil”, years before the likes of Malaysiakini and Malaysia-Today were even established. My respects for him and I consider him my Guru!
Before social media, journalists had very little tools to “listen” to the people – the audience. It was mostly through polls, emails, etc. Now, you have a slew of online communities that allow journalists to keep their hands on the pulse of what’s going on. Social Media has also allowed the people to directly connect and humanize the journalists who were mostly kept behind the veiled publication without much control and influence (except for a PR person).
Now, it’s created a two way channel for the people and journalists to connect. While a lot of journalists and publications are moving in light speed to capture mind share, connect, and engage via tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+Hangout, the very core essence of journalism cannot be forgotten.
Journalists are entrusted by the public to tell the story in an objective manner with credible sources and provide information that is both educational and insightful. Journalists have a duty to the public to tell the story using various channels via blogs, etc. but ensure the story is credible, factual, and compelling. While Social Media may have changed the fundamentals of communication and delivery, the core foundation of journalism cannot be mistaken or forgotten
When one talks about social media, it’s a three level approach:
First – to disseminate information to relevant target audience at the right time, using the right channel.
Second – to engage target audience by relating and ‘connecting’ to them.
Third – to generate loyal ambassadors in a way that they represent you in the good sense among other target audience and answer on your behalf thus building a credible image.
The potential of social media to provide opportunities to ‘convert’ is huge but it requires strategising and extensive planning.
Anwar Ibrahim, has sure emerged as the star of Malaysian Politics through social media. With his blog, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ Hangout, he seems to have been in the news and has been the trending topic on most social media for awhile. This seems to have given a sudden twist in the ability of social media to reach the right target audience. While Umno and Barisan National at one time mocked and even said that social media is for people who have got nothing better to do and have doubted the ability of Social Media to reach their target audience, today they play a different tune after Anwar Ibrahim has proved a point. Najib Tun Razak is also trying hard with his Facebook, Twitter and his recent Goggle+hangout, but sad to say he is yet there.
This is the first time in Malaysian Politics that anybody has attempted to reach out to Malaysians on social media and we must say, what a campaign! The team behind Anwar Ibrahim’s campaign seems to have researched well and they have splurged content on all social media where it matters. They are on Twitter, Facebook, G+, some of the top social networking sites and they are in touch with the right set of influencers in the online world to extensively talk about Anwar’s campaign in the digital medium. The campaign is brilliant and they do the updating of information on the go and they ensure that they have researched the potential of all features of the top social networking sites and use it to their advantage. While most other political parties are harping on being first people to adopt social media, we are yet to see a campaign of this magnitude that effectively utilizes relevant features of social media.
So, has this campaign proved to be the best social media campaign in Malaysia? In some ways yes, this is the first campaign of its kind where there has been an effective utilization of digital medium in such a magnitude. The reach is significant and the design brilliant. However the effort is yet to spill over to the next levels – engagement. The campaign has just begun, but will it hold the audience glued? The Facebook posts are great but the comments are yet to be monitored and catered to. There are several comments that need to be addressed, but it does not look like anybody cares. Facebook does provide the opportunity to convert people but Najib Tun Razak’s team is yet to use it fully to their benefit. Going by number of fans or number of people talking about the page as a metric to determine popularity, is now passé. The number of people talking about the page could be phenomenal, but how many are talking positive and helping spread political awareness is the question, specially his 1Malaysia. But as Facebook users know all too well, a “fan” may not always be a fan and a “friend” may not always be a friend. And sometimes “likes” is just a five letter word.
Najib should remember, starting is 50% of work done. But will Najib’s team deliver the other half? Even though his has been a brilliant campaign with the help of APCO Worldwide, but there are signs of fading, unless of course there is constant innovation in reaching the target audience online. What has happened so far is the mandate of his social media presence. His group has failed to cross the first level – appropriate presence. The second level of engagement is to ‘connect’ and cater to audience in real time, the magic to move towards conversion. This level is yet to be achieved in Najib’s campaign.
The impact on netizans of this ‘move towards social media’ could be several, but the impact on Malaysian Politics and on Malaysia is immeasurable. The next thing we know is, Malaysian politicians embarrassing social media to make their impact. This is an era where you could clearly say – a politician is a fool to not have a social media presence! The politicians will be forced to take to social media and we might see a new breed of net savvy politicians who have the presence of mind to ‘connect’ in the real sense. The web 2.0 (now moving to 3.0) experience will force politicians to at least move towards what is right if not ‘do what is right’.
With mobile phones are already showing high penetration, politicians and government will ensure that there is internet connectivity at every corner in Malaysia so that they are able to at least present their messages if not ‘interact’. Rais Yatim should wake up and do better on the internet connectivity in Sabah which is only 30% and Barisan National should stop blowing their trumpets saying Sabah being the “fixed Deposit. Rais Yatim does zilch to improve the internet connectivity in Sabah!
Just because people respond to you through social media — by liking and friending and following you — that does not mean their virtual support will always translate into actual support, Rais Yatim!