Singapore Government Social Media Initiatives
Governments are largely reactive in nature. Things move with a heavy foot, there are processes to be followed, and ‘corporatization’ is frowned upon. By ‘corporatization’, I largely mean ‘marketing’.
The fundamentals governing this thought process have ground in the fact that governments need to be largely ‘welfare’ units, ‘not-for-profit’ organizations. Which they should be- but with a broader perspective.
Marketing is so synonymous with greedy profit churning and pushy sales calls, that it is almost a bad word- and because of lack of hard data supporting usefulness of each marketing initiative, governmental organizations find it easy to leave it alone. Not to be touched. From a useful discipline that allows one to make their ideas reach relevant people, it becomes a cryptic, pseudo-relevant science.
There is little specialist talent, therefore, within governmental organizations to proactively take marketing initiatives.
Things, however, are changing. Not only do we see political parties and political candidates using the power of new age marketing techniques and tools, we also see some governments taking a pro active approach towards connecting with their stakeholders.
And from what I have seen in the recent few years, fewer government organizations have used new marketing opportunities than those within Singapore.
Specifically from the ‘Social Media’/engagement standpoint, there have been some recent successes that I noticed- I will list some of them here- mostly from top of mind recall, but I am sure there are more cases out there.
Like most new things, these initiatives have not been without their share of criticisms (ample to find that in Singapore) and execution hiccups.
But the highlight is not about how great the campaigns were, how flawless the execution was or how measurable were these campaigns.
Many of these campaigns were none of these, and many probably failed miserably at achieving the desired results.
But what is worth highlighting is that they tried. It is BIG DEAL in governments. These are government or quasi government (aided or assisted with government control/stake) organizations. These are not nimble enterprises. The fact that they take this ‘risk’ of venturing into hitherto unknown territory and risk mockery or failure, is HUGE. To me, it is important enough that these campaigns saw the light of the day.
Time does not permit to dissect these campaigns, but I hope to, sometime in future. And also, my point of view on how they could have been better or what could be the next steps following up from where they left it. As of now, just listing some details on these campaigns.
- Singapore Tourism Board (STB):
- Aided by their agency partners, STB seems to have undertaken a few non-mainstream initiatives
- STB Crowdsourcing Ideas from public: Following up on their roadmap to year 2020, STB launched a website asking the common person on their vision of how to improve this sector in 2020.
- STB blogger connections: STB now has a section on their website featuring Blogger perspectives on Singapore. Bloggers talk about new stuff, their experiences, and bring in a slightly different side of the life in Singapore- which could be of immense interest to the visitors who want to get the story from individuals not corporations.
- Reach Singapore: The organization entrusted with community development in Singapore, had launched early some basic steps in connecting and reaching out to the community, specially the youth. Setting up the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter communities were basic attempts, but the fact that some initiatives were as early as 2008, is interesting to note.
- Senior ministers in the government now actively engage digitally- and participate in forums. This is seen even ‘offline’. Last year, at the omy.sg (a bilingual site in mandarin and english) Blogger award night, the Chief Guest was Mr George Yeo- Minister of foreign affairs in the Singapore government. Attending a congregation of largely teens or tweens!
- NTUC Fairprice : Less known as a “trade union corporation”, more as a supermarket chain, their facebook page now boasts more than 26k members. Frankly, it is quite basic, slightly unkempt (“What’s up” section has nothing inside (!)) and seems a lot more could have been done than promoting a contest and their TVCs. But still worth a mention.
- SingPost: This is what happens when an old school service tries to appeal to the new age consumers. Singapore Post or SingPost is essentially a postal service (actually they have a lot more to their repertoire) and here is what they tried:
- In the wake of Youth Olympics in Singapore, they decided to undertake a stealth marketing campaign.
- Some graffiti artists were hired and in full public view, were made to paint graffiti on Singpost postboxes. In Singapore, that is BIG DEAL. Any graffiti on public properties is treated as serious vandalization and is punishable by law.
- The morning after effect assumed was that people would talk about it, it would spread- followed by Singpost admitting it was a publicity stunt -and all will be hunky dory. Only it went the other way- complaints and social media buzz derided the act as distasteful and counter to the values we should impart to the youth.
- To me, it was Classic germFeed- created an opportunity to talk- bystanders created content- took videos/took snaps, shared it and commented on it.
- Good or Bad- to get a postal service get talked about by the youth is a huge deal. I am not sure if kids nowadays would think of Post Boxes as something to be like a fire safety poles. If kids were all about sharing and compassion and love and the spirit of games- gaming and cinema would have died long back.
- Could it have done in a better way? Sure it could have been. Was graffiti necessary? Sure it wasn’t. But the idea of doing a radical exercise- something out of the ordinary- by itself is worth a mention.
What would I have done? Here is what I would have done- stick color codes or Augmented Reality code stickers on all Post boxes- promote it across media channels- encourage people to snap it with their camera phones- wherever they saw the boxes and create engaging content to engage with it. Maybe show the journey of a parcel,maybe show profile of Youth Olympic atheletes- tonnes of things to surprise people with.
Actually, as I said, none of these are examples of ‘great’ initiatives. But if they evolve from hereon- it is what will make the difference. If they continue trying it is then they will make that difference.
They have had their share of criticisms, let us allow them to entertain and engage us.
Think About It