The Nation

INTERVIEW

We're using social media to spark interest in the election: Apirak

Tanutpong Kongsai talks to Democrat Apirak Kosayothin (@apirak_bangkok) who is spearheading his party's social media offensive in the election campaign.

What is your social media plan? Our strategy is to link the party's key MP candidates with the voters so that they know our policies to solve economic and other problems. Social media allow two-way communication so the electorate can also express their views, which can then be commented by others in the networked community. Now, our party leader and top figures all have Twitter and Facebook accounts. In fact all MP candidates can use social media to interact with their constituencies. In Thailand, there are as many as 8 million to 9 million users of Facebook and Twitter, so all these people will be able to follow up with our candidates on line.

Who are your target groups and what are their demographics? Age, occupations and other profiles vary, but they all love to use information technology. Most use Facebook, but some also use Twitter and YouTube. They like to express their opinions and comments. Our target includes 18-year-olds who are first-time voters as we want to present a new form of politics to these people. In fact, our party leader [PM Abhisit Vejjajiva] is a long-time user of social media, while Khun Korn [Chatikanij, finance minister] and Khun Korbsak [Sabhavasu, former deputy premier] and Khun Satit [Wongnongtoey] also use social media regularly.

Any problems in using social media in this campaign? One of the issues is that people expect responses to every query. For example, our party leader has over 600,000 online followers so he cannot personally reply to every question. He is just too busy. Some had complained that they didn't want the PM's assistants to respond on his behalf. Hence, the party leader now has a new account, @Abhisit_DP [where he will respond personally].

Regarding your platform, how much has come from social media? We have used social media to preliminarily evaluate policy initiatives. There are both agreements and disagreements so that we could fine-tune those ideas.

The so-called silent majority is crucial to this election. How are you going to use social media to convince them to vote for your party? In fact, we need to interact with the mainstream media, namely, TV, radio and newspapers to promote the use of social media and generate fresh interest in this election, especially among those who have not paid attention before.

What about the Democrat Party drawing No 10 for the election? As soon as we got No 10 during the Election Commission's lot-drawing, I posted that if you like Messi [the No 10 player for Barcelona] please vote for the Democrats. Then, another guy posted if he liked Rooney [of Manchester United], could he also vote for the party. All this stuff is viral and very fast in the online world, so we could somehow create waves of new interest in the election countdown. We need to link No 10 with something people are very fami-liar. Besides soccer, [the most popular sport in Thailand], people are talking about Ben Ten, the popular cartoon series, or Poo Chana Sip Tit, a famous Thai work of literature about a Burmese king.


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