MANILA, Philippines – There is no such thing as a social media vote in the Philippines -- at least not yet, according to a University of the Philippines professor.
In an interview wth ANC on Tuesday, UP Diliman journalism Prof. Danilo Arao said the country’s Internet penetration remains low, which means social media sentiments are not representative of the views of the majority of the people.
"According to Internet world statistics, it’s (PH internet access) still at 32.4%. If we look at the total number of registered voters based on Comelec data, we have about 52.3 million, 32.4% of which is a potential reach of voters online of about 17 million. It’s still a sizable number, but not the majority,” he said.
Arao said this is the reason why candidates who initiated social media campaigns before the elections should have also made sure that their online presence was translated to other media.
“If you look at studies by Pulse Asia through the years, TV is still the most pervasive, the most powerful and the most credible medium. It’s the virality of the social media content that defines the dissemination of that particular information,” he said.
“Instead of old versus new media, what we are seeing is the convergence, not just the different components of new media, but also the components of new and old media. The convergence factor is considered by the campaign strategists in this election,” he added.
However, IBM Philppines’ chief technologist Lope Doromal said it is interesting to note that things “happening in social media still mirror what’s also happening in traditional media in the Philippines.”
“There wasn’t really a big discussion, a big event, a big topic that went out [on TV] that’s very different from what people are talking about in social media. Maybe in a few years, that may change but based on this past election, there’s still a close relationship between what is happening in social and traditional media,” Doromal said.
Advantage of social media
While the Philippines is still at an early stage when it comes to social media, ABS-CBN's incoming chief digital officer, Donald Lim, noted that the candidates who made use of the said medium in their campaigns still had an advantage.
“The handshake is still the best way, but you cannot handshake everyone. So that’s why I think it is a good backup that if you cannot shake hands with everyone, you can show your good intentions through the social media,” he said.
“We’ve gone a long way. Three years ago, we are not social, but now we are very social. I think every candidate should start creating their presence on the digital platform. Start showing people that you care and it also balances everything,” Lim added.
But would it be wise for a for a local candidate to use social media in campaigns?
“For urban areas which relatively have higher penetration rate -- in Manila for example, both camps of Lim and Estrada used social media in their campaign. Estrada even went one step further and go full blast, not only campaigning on social media, and even on national television,” said Arao.
“But if you are in the countryside and part of your constituency would include areas that even electricity would be hard to come by, then of course social media would be an impractical tool,” the UP professor added.
Doromal believes “the use of social media will only increase one election after the other.”