MANILA - Several campaign teams have been working to drive more engagements in the social media pages of several political aspirants months before election day, as physical campaigning is expected to be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While social media followers cannot be converted into actual votes, several politicians are instead using the platform to appear popular and relevant in hopes that some voters simply join bandwagons, some analysts said.
Candidates in the 2022 elections are expected to "stay in the social media space much longer," political analyst Tony La Viña said.
"Ngayon wala nang rallies (Now that there are no more rallies) because of the pandemic so they will just stay in the social media sphere and the local governments," he said.
"It is a matter of economics. Mas mura ngayon kaysa bumili ka kapag kampaniya na," Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso's campaign manager, Lito Banayo, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo in an earlier interview.
(It is cheaper to buy spots now that buy during the actual campaign period.)
But having a strong social media presence, even during a pandemic, does not guarantee an election victory, said campaign strategist Gerardo Eusebio.
"There are people who are interestingly following your career, may be benefitting from your program as a vlogger, but will not necessarily vote for you," he said.
"That's a whale of a difference really to vote for you and to be your fan. It doesn't translate automatically," he said.
It is also easy to manipulate popularity on social media with troll farms selling followers, comments and trending topics, he said.
"A lot of people in our field have been telling me that if you do not have trolls yourself, you would probably be left out," he said, noting that paying for a troll farm's service is now included in the arsenal of some political aspirants.
Some politicians use paid followers to either attack a political rival or boost good news about them, Eusebio said.
"It is a show of strength... It creates a bandwagon effect," he said.
Data from social media may also be skewed as not all Filipinos have access to the internet and social media sites, even if the Philippines remains to be one of the most active countries on social media, Eusebio said.
And unlike on election day where a voter can only choose one president and one vice president, people on social media are allowed to follow all candidates simultaneously, he said.
Communications and branding expert Joyce Ramirez explained that social media followers "can never be converted into actual votes."
"What social media does is to merely amplify the message," she said.
"Ultimately, it is the messaging that will determine a win or a loss."