Social media plays key role in election

Social media plays key role in election

A screen capture shows video clips of politicians that were popular on the social media platform TikTok during the election. (Photo courtesy of TikTok: chevamatch.cvm)
A screen capture shows video clips of politicians that were popular on the social media platform TikTok during the election. (Photo courtesy of TikTok: chevamatch.cvm)

Social media, along with appealing content, was seen as a game changer in the 2023 election and is even believed to have played a key role in the victory of the Moving Forward Party, according to digital agencies and mass communication experts.

This election showed that social media is no longer an alternative channel in poll campaigns but has become a mainstream media channel as it is able to cover 85% of the population, with Thais spending an average of eight hours per day on it, said Pawat Ruangdejworachai, chief executive of creative digital agency Media Intelligence.

Before the election, the Move Forward Party gained popularity through social media channels. This popularity did not only exist in the online world but also ended up representing real votes in the real world, Mr Pawat said.

"For the first time, the online trend was driven organically by fans of some parties who helped promote their election campaigns by creating and sharing content for them. This approach was able to win over traditional election campaigners who spent money to buy votes in many areas. The election outcome in Bangkok and major cities reflected this result," he said.

Mr Pawat said this election reflected the importance of "content is king" as a policy. The clear and consistent communication of policies that appeal to voters is crucial, while social media serves as a tool to connect with potential voters. "The winning party used a language style targeted at specific user profiles."

The Move Forward Party maintained consistent messages and policies but used different speaking styles tailored to their targeted audience. This approach allowed them to gain appeal among offline and online users.

The party also participated in policy debates on various platforms. Policy discussions or campaigns during debates were also spread on social media channels, reaching both young people and even baby boomers who turned to using social media after the pandemic.

Social media can facilitate viral marketing through organic political supporters or the sharing of subtle messages to discredit the opposition.

"Policy or content is the backbone of everything. Even with heavy use of social media, success cannot be guaranteed if the product is not good enough."

The Move Forward Party has rapidly grown its brand in the past four years. Its future success will depend on users' experiences and whether they choose to support the party repeatedly.

"Currently, this party needs partners or channels to deliver outcomes. They cannot rely solely on their own channels, similar to how e-commerce relies on affiliate marketing," Mr Pawat said.

Mana Treelayapewat, vice-president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said this election showed that social media is a mainstream channel but the success still required a combination of offline channels, event roadshows and strong policies.

"Social media channels are more diverse and fragmented in this election since the last one. It had mass media but each online channel reached different users and segments," said Mr Mana.

The outstanding feature in this election was 'user-generated content' where political supporters helped create and share the impactful party's policy content.

Morever, information operation through the use of fake news and misinformation was no longer powerful as supporters and fans of parties helped clarify the fake news concerning their favourite parties.

The bottom line of the success came from the clear policies and the communications of the campaigns that were able to be served to targeted groups.

Kla Tangsuwan, chief executive of Wisesight, a social listening firm, said social media sentiment reflected the real sentiment of users.

According to the firm's Zocial Eye data on May 14, the Move Forward Party was mentioned over 245,932 times, followed by parties' candidates at 43,537, the United Thai Nation Party at 25,738 and Pheu Thai at 20,996.

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