MANILA, Philippines — In the next couple of days, three months of election fever will officially wind down with the formal proclamation of winners by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
All throughout the campaign period up to election day last May 9, Twitter became the de facto partner of social media savvy citizens in expressing themselves on breaking issues and getting updates in real-time on election-related activities.
In an exclusive interview with InterAksyon, Pratiksha Rao, head for media partnerships in Twitter South East Asia, said “There were over 35 million elections-related Tweets sent since the start of the year, of which over 4 million Tweets came on election day alone.”
Twitter was the first place Filipinos went to see what was happening on the campaign trail, she added. “The diverse live conversations from the presidential TV debates to election day events, gave voice to the pulse of the nation, one that was heard around the world. It was great display of people power.”
This year’s national elections also galvanized a higher level of inclusiveness among Filipino citizens through the first-ever #TwitterElection. Engaging first-time voters who are heavy social media users, or one-third (17 million) of the country’s 50 million registered voters, the elections showed that the youth sector can be critically important for any candidate to win.
Rao said, “We definitely saw a lot of engagement among younger voters. The election had a record turnout and 80% of registered voters did go out and vote. This is very much reflected in the conversations on Twitter.
“As users connected with others, Twitter allowed young first time voters to freely express themselves. In fact, some of the most Retweeted Tweets on election day came from young Filipinos expressing their opinions about the early voting results. While they may not have a lot of followers, their Tweets resonated with thousands of Filipinos who shared their point of view,” she added.
Twitter also introduced a lot of cool emojis. With the presidential candidate emojis and the voting emoji, voters especially the younger ones were able express themselves in fun ways whether it’s their opinion or how excited they were to go out and vote.
The most mentioned Presidential candidates on Twitter can be a leading indicator of people’s interests. Over the past seven months (from October 12, 2015 to May 9, 2016), Rodrigo Duterte was the most discussed Presidential candidate on Twitter, accounting for 40% of all mentions, almost equal to the next two leading candidates (Jejomar Binay and Mars Roxas) combined.
Rao also cited, “The biggest moments around the elections were the #PilipinasDebates. We generated 5 million tweets just during the broadcast of the debates. It showed that while watching the debates, citizens also flocked to Twitter commenting on what was going on.
“All of the Philippines were glued on the TV watching the debates and at the same time glued to their cell phones expressing themselves,” she said.
On election day alone, the roar of the crowd was heard on Twitter with over 4 million Tweets, or more than 10% of all elections-related conversations in 2016. The Twitter conversation peaked at 5,600 Tweets per minute at 7:30pm on May 9th as people began talking about the early voting results.
Also on election day, Twitter conversations showed that Binay started strongly, but he faded throughout most of the day. Meanwhile Duterte had the opposite reaction by starting slowly and peaking at the end of the polling day. Santiago also built up momentum throughout the day and spiked higher than Duterte when her supporters started questioning why the early polling results showed her in last place. Grace Poe spiked at the end of the day when she conceded defeat.
Earlier this year, Twitter partnered with Comelec to encourage more Filipinos to participate in the elections. The partnership provided for a way to report voting rules violations via Twitter.
“That was particularly crucial in elections. With #sumbongko, Comelec was entrusting upon its citizens to report anomalies then made sure someone on the ground addressed these complaints,” Rao said.
The first-ever Twitter Election in the Philippines was a huge success and a unique achievement over similar Twitter events in other countries.
Rao explained, “To put it in perspective, we had 60 million elections-related Tweets for the Lok Sabha elections in India, yet the Indian population is more than 10 times bigger than the Philippines’. With over 35 million Tweets for the Philippines general election this year, it’s clear that Filipino voters were highly engaged with live conversations on Twitter, reinforcing its place as one of the top social media countries in the world.”