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Social media impressions may translate to votes

Coincidentally the Pheu Thai Party's candidate for Bangkok governor, Pongsapat Pongcharoen, appears to be repeating this column's title in his campaign motto - "Social media are an important power for the change of our society tomorrow. Like Pongsapat, share Bangkok's future."

He has also made a three-minute video clip available on YouTube, in which he calls Bangkok the "capital of social media" and announces that any and all interaction, even "unnecessary drama", is part of the democratic process.

Since Monday, he and his team (@PongsapatBkk) have tweeted more than 30 messages and won more than 1,350 followers. In contrast, Democrat Sukhumbhand Paribatra (@Sukhumbhandp), who hopes to be re-elected, has been a Twitter virtuoso since August 2009 with more than 109,000 followers.

As for their presence on Facebook, www.facebook.com/PongsapatBkk and www.facebook.com/Sukhumbhand.P, they have both won more than 40,000 Likes. Though some messages on these pages refer to the candidates' ideas or policies, most of the posts are just photographs taken during their campaigns or media coverage.

Sukhumbhand's page displays a photograph of him with an elderly woman under the campaign motto "Love Bangkok, join up to build Bangkok, vote for MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra."

However, the most colourful Facebook page is that of independent candidate DJ Suharit Siamwalla, who declares "Suharit runs BKK" against a blue, white and red background and promises a "surprise". Other than pictorial graphics asking for votes created by the candidate himself, the page features pictures sent in by his supporters. Some fans have sent in photographs of their hand reading "vote Suharit", while one devotee even has the message written on her eyelids.

Suharit has asked his fans to "make" posters for him and indicate his candidacy number with their fingers once he gets it on Monday.

Obviously he doesn't want to go for generic posters extolling his virtues.

This candidate (@Suharit) also appears to be very active on Twitter, and every tweet apparently comes from him personally, not his team. He has won some 57,600 followers so far.

Of course, other candidates-to-be like Pol General Sereepisuth Temeeyaves and Kosit Suvinijjit also have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a website.

A few days ago, @sereepisuth tweeted, "I receive all the messages that everyone sends to me, but I cannot reply all of them. I apologise and thank you all for the moral support."

Recently, @Tanatpong_nna asked @sereepisuth, @Suharit, @KositBangkok, @Sukhumbhandp and @PongsapatBKK why election candidates only declare what they will be doing for the city when they are campaigning for votes and @Suharit was the only one who replied.

His answer was: "I am a new face and I only say what I think about how I want Bangkok to be. They become my policies."

Clearly, Pongsapat seems to have hit the nail on the head - social media are bound to play a crucial role in this election, as many voters will base their choice on what they see on social media.

Of course, the social-media network should start buzzing once the contest begins officially on Monday and runs until votes are cast on March 3.


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