ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Publication Date : 21-04-2012
You can now 'like' Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Facebook, comment on his posts, and follow him on Twitter.
PM Lee launched his Facebook page and Twitter account yesterday, marking his official entry into social media in a move that also reflected an increased effort to engage younger Singaporeans.
Both platforms received an enthusiastic response. Within three hours of its launch at 3pm, PM Lee's Facebook page drew more than 7,000 'likes' - making him the most 'liked' among Singapore Cabinet ministers with public Facebook pages - and more than 2,000 followers on Twitter.
By 11pm, he had more than 15,700 'likes' on Facebook and 3,500 Twitter followers. Facebook users indicate their interest in pages set up by others by clicking on a 'like' button, while Twitter users can 'follow' each other's postings.
In a welcome post on Facebook, PM Lee noted that social media had changed the way people live, work, play and connect. He said many of his colleagues had been using social media and encouraged him to start his own Facebook page.
He wrote: "Having watched them, I have decided to join the fun."
Ministers with Facebook pages include National Development's Khaw Boon Wan, Foreign Affairs' K. Shanmugam, and Community Development, Youth and Sports' Chan Chun Sing.
PM Lee's Facebook page will be maintained by staff from the Prime Minister's Office, but he said he would try to post updates personally as often as he could.
Besides using it to share what he is doing and thinking about, PM Lee also asked netizens to pitch in to "help shape ideas and understanding of what we can do together to improve our lives".
Calling for comments in all four national languages, he said: "As a Facebook newbie, I would appreciate your advice, suggestions and, most of all, your patience."
The page now contains photos depicting key events in his life, such as his days in school and in the military, his wedding to Madam Ho Ching in 1985, and the day he became Singapore's third PM in 2004.
PM Lee also adopted breezy Internet lingo in his maiden post, using a smiley face and saying he hopes netizens will "like (and Like)" what they read.
He will also sign off on personal posts with his initials - LHL.
With his latest move, PM Lee joins the ranks of other world leaders who have gone online, such as the United States' Barack Obama, Australia's Julia Gillard and Malaysia's Najib Razak.
Communications experts like Associate Professor Ong Siow Heng at the Singapore Management University (SMU) said it reflected PM Lee's desire to send the message that he was "reachable and accessible". Singapore Internet Research Centre director Ang Peng Hwa saw it as a signal to government bodies to use social media and new technology to engage citizens better.
But some stressed that how PM Lee interacts with Facebook users over time will be the true test of its effectiveness.
"No one expects the PM to personally respond to every comment," noted former Nominated MP and blogger Siew Kum Hong, "but he has to engage people for the platform to work".
Netizen Heidi Ng, 23, hopes to see more spontaneous and personal content. "Right now, it seems more like a PR pitch... I would like to see more in-depth insights on policies, his thoughts and his family. It will be interesting to see how he replies to people's comments too."
Many of the comments made yesterday welcomed the Prime Minister online, but some took the chance to air grievances over national issues. Some asked if negative comments would be deleted.
Social media expert Michael Netzley from SMU said yesterday's swift responses were a good sign: "The initials LHL could soon come to represent something more than just the PM's name. If handled well, engagement over these channels could potentially come to represent a willingness to connect with the people."
PM Lee appeared determined to keep the ball rolling. At 9pm, he made a second post on Facebook: "I just finished dinner, and am happy to find so many people have already seen my page: residents in Teck Ghee, Singaporeans far and wide (including at least one in Europe), an old SAF comrade I have not heard from for a while (Hi, Richard!) and even a well-wisher from Mauritius. TY to all for your comments and Likes! - LHL."
On Twitter, he posted: "Thank u all! V touched by ur responses & encouragement. Good night! - LHL"