Social networking has candidates all a-TwitterThe power of social networking services, like San Francisco-based Twitter, has been proven time and again over the past several years.
Samsung Group recently announced the return of chairman Lee Kun-hee on its Twitter account. It was Twitter that broke the shocking news of the Hudson River plane crash in New York last year.
And U.S. President Barack Obama benefited from “tweeting” during his campaign for the presidency in 2008; Twitter use is reported to have surged by 43 percent on the day of the election.
With the June 2 local elections just around the corner, Korean politicians are trying to capitalize on Twitter’s power for publicity.
The ruling Grand National Party, for instance, distributed smartphones to its members in March and has since strongly encouraged them to use Twitter to communicate with voters. The campaign manual contained instructions on how to use the microblogging service, and a group of IT-savvy members has been on a nationwide tour educating candidates how to use Twitter.
“I am now getting my teeth cleaned. As many candidates are making attacks on me, I’m readying myself to react - to gnash my teeth,” Lee Gye-jin, a GNP member running for Gangwon governor tweeted in his account last week.
The main opposition Democratic Party is actively tweeting. Its members were given instructions about how best to use the service, including “tweet about on-site experiences that aren’t introduced in news reports,” “communicate two-way, not one-way” and “follow your followers.”
Other parties are also encouraging their members to make the most out of Twitter.
The New Jinbo Party’s candidate for Seoul mayor, Roh Hoe-chan, has more than 46,000 followers in his account. He is well-known for holding impromptu, casual meetings with his followers.
So far, he’s held about 10 such meetings in areas such as Gwanghwamun, Yeoksam-dong and Yeoduido, discussing politics, economy and social issues with voters.
But considering the limited demographics of Twitter users, some say the effect may not be as big as expected. Although Twitter does not release official figures on its number of users, the Korean Twitter User Directory (koreantweeters.com) has just over 400,000 members. This is around 1 percent of total citizens - 39 million - expected to vote in the upcoming elections.
“Twitter campaigning has less influence in smaller regional units. It has quite an impact in cities, but not as much in counties and districts,” Yu Eun-jong, manager of GNP’s digital team, told Yonhap in a recent interview.
“Candidates still have to keep on with the traditional method of meeting voters face-to-face and shaking their hands.”
By Kim Hyung-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]