Tapping social media's 'real power'

MANILA, Philippines – It's not merely the power to spread information that the Philippine government wanted when it boosted its use of social media, a Cabinet official explained at a netizens' summit Saturday, September 22.

Social media's power “is not in its tendency to spread news and ideas quickly and broadly,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez during his speech at the Social Good Summit Manila 2012 at the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.

“The real power of social media is its ability to validate or, in some cases, invalidate personal conviction,” Jimenez said, explaining that it helps people “to be sure of the choice we make, to be strong in that choice.”

A former advertising executive, Jimenez cited the tourism campaign he launched, “It's More Fun in the Philippines.” The campaign was designed for Filipinos to personalize the slogan, with the expectation that they will spread their personalized memes or posters across their social networks.

“'It's More Fun in the Philippines,' therefore, helps Filipinos, one, to share their feelings; two, to validate those feelings by seeing that others felt the same way; and three, confirm that they were right,” Jimenez told an audience of bloggers, journalists, and other netizens.

Without media's 'filter'

In his speech after Jimenez, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said that social media allows them to provide information in their purest form.

He shared how the Palace revamped the online edition of its Official Gazette to suit netizens' needs.

“What people want from the government, when they go online, is really information,” he said.

Carandang, an active social media user, noted it is now “impossible” for the government not to engage the public in social media.

A former broadcast journalist, Carandang added, “It (social media) allows us to reach the public directly, without the filter of media.”

He mentioned, as an example, his need to clarify an erroneous news item – because it involved himself. This was about a wrongly attributed joke about the passage of the Freedom of Information bill, as published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

The quote wrongly attributed to Carandang went: “With the attitude of the President to the press, I don’t think there is a need for FOI. Just kidding, he said,” as reported on the Philippine Star.

Carandang said he had to tweet clarifications several times. Eventually, the PCIJ apologized to Carandang for the error.

“There are times when you want to hear from us directly,” Carandang said.

Earlier at the Social Good Summit, netizens stressed social media's importance in shaping public affairs. They also discussed the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which has received criticism for a provision penalizing online libel. – Rappler.com


Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.