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MANILA, Philippines - Before September 2012, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr had a simple morning routine: he would open 3 different radio stations to get early news updates.
Today, his routine is much simpler. "All I have to do is check Twitter," the poll chief said on Thursday, February 21.
Brillantes was speaking before an audience of social media advocates during eDemokraya, a conference about the use of social media and technology in the elections. It was his staff of young lawyers who convinced the 72-year-old poll head to join Twitter.
Within hours of opening his Twitter account in September 2012, Brillantes was bombarded with replies. "We made a mistake," he told his staff in jest.
Media and communications expert Chris Talbot, who has handled political campaigns in the United States, admitted it can be difficult to convince older candidates to join social media.
"You have candidates [who think that social media] is more bad than it is good," he said on the sidelines of the conference.
But missing out on social media, he said, means a candidate also misses out on the conversations happening online.
So how do you get non-digital natives to enter the wild world of social media?
"If they have a son, daughter, niece, nephew who's using [social media and technology], they'll have a personal reason to get involved in it," Talbot said. In the case of Brillantes, having a daughter overseas meant Internet video calls were a must.
Prep for 2016
The audience at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila featured social media and technology experts and newbies. The Comelec came in full force. Aside from Brillantes, Commissioners Grace Padaca, Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph were in attendance.
Poll watchers and citizen journalists from all over the country were also in attendance. Where were the politicians and their teams? One citizen journalist hoped they were at least listening.
Are social media teams of pols listening to #eDemokrasya? If not, you seriously should be.— Jane Uymatiao (@philippinebeat) February 21, 2013
Talbot said the 2013 Philippine elections are crucial--especially for politicians and their social media teams--because these would prepare them for the rigors of a 2016 social media campaign.
So far, none of the campaigns for the 2013 elections have stood out, he said. "The campaigns that are ongoing in 2013 are already struggling with [social media] because they're not sure about what to do. They're already late in their beginnings."
It's something those planning to run in 2016 should take note of. Begin engaging even if the 2016 elections are still years away, Talbot urged.
Social media teams and campaign strategists can only hope their 2016 bets would be as adventurous and daring as Brillantes. Look where that's taken him. - Rappler.com
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