Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Finance Ministry taps influencers to drum up interest in #Budget2018

SINGAPORE — Blogger Joey Ching How typically posts pictures of the food he eats, the outfits he wears and the places he visits on Instagram. A post last month was out of the ordinary: It featured Mr Ching on one end of a see-saw, with superimposed bags of money on the other.

Finance Ministry taps influencers to drum up interest in #Budget2018

Mr Ching, whose post garnered 1,012 “likes” as of Thursday (Jan 18), is one of the over 50 “online micro-influencers” that Ministry of Finance (MOF) has engaged to drum up publicity for the upcoming Budget and to “encourage youth participation in the Budget process”. Photo: Instagram screencap

SINGAPORE — Blogger Joey Ching How typically posts pictures of the food he eats, the outfits he wears and the places he visits on Instagram. A post last month was out of the ordinary: It featured Mr Ching on one end of a see-saw, with superimposed bags of money on the other.

“Unlike most countries, SG doesn’t actually borrow money to fund our expenditures… Same leh, I also don’t like to borrow money hahaha!” part of the caption read.

“Gained like 10 stat points in intelligence learning who our longest serving finance minister was, and how the budget is prepared. I thought it was simply a process of a few key personnel sitting in the office, putting their heads together. But no, the Budget is actually a collaborative process with us!” he added.

Mr Ching, whose post garnered 1,012 “likes” as of Thursday (Jan 18), is one of more than 50 “online micro-influencers” that Ministry of Finance (MOF) has engaged to drum up publicity for the upcoming Budget and to “encourage youth participation in the Budget process”.

While such a strategy may be a sign of the ministry keeping up with the times, the information conveyed about the Budget is relatively superficial, said communications experts.

Members of the public, meanwhile, had mixed reactions to the move. IT professional Edwin Zhang, 29, said: “My initial impression was that it’s a bit silly, but I think it’s an interesting way to get people to notice the upcoming Budget using hashtags on Instagram. I guess the government is trying new ways to reach out to the more social media-savvy millennials.”

A 28-year-old professional in the legal industry, who declined to be named, felt the Instagram campaign did not convey new knowledge about the Budget. “All they tell me is that there is a Budget, which I already know is happening,” he said.

A BUDGET FOR YOUNGER SINGAPOREANS TOO

“Given the significance of the Budget to all Singaporeans, MOF taps… a mix of communications channels and platforms. With many Singaporeans obtaining information through online channels, especially younger audiences, MOF also publishes material on social media, and partners other parties to share relevant content,” said an MOF spokesperson, in response to TODAY’s queries.

Hoping to reach 225,000 Instagram users for this campaign, the ministry has engaged over 50 individuals via influencer marketing agency StarNgage. On its website, the agency says it can connect clients with a network of over 600,000 YouTube and Instagram “influencers” in Asia, Europe, Americas and Australia.

The “influencers” for MOF’s current campaign — each boasting a following of between 2,000 to 30,000 Instagram users — are each expected to put up one Instagram post relevant to the Budget and share a link to MOF’s website on the Budget on their Instagram profile pages.

An influencer called Tracy with 31,400 Instagram followers, for instance, posted an image of herself looking at the Budget website and screenshots of the site. In the post, which garnered 419 “likes”, she wrote: “Guess what I’m looking at so intently on my mobile? It’s the Budget 2018 website. Budget is on 19 Feb this year! The Budget which is prepared for Singaporeans, is a plan to position Singapore for a better future.”

The performance of the campaign is measured by the number of followers each influencer has, and the number of “likes” and comments each post garners.

“By providing information in a more relatable format through the influencers, the campaign aims to drive awareness of Budget 2018, as well as strengthen feedback and engagement in this year’s Budget process,” said StarNgage’s chief community officer Terrence Ngu.

The influencers will receive a “token remuneration”, but Mr Ngu declined to disclose figures. The MOF also did not reply to a query on how much the campaign cost. 

The ministry worked with StarNgage in a similar campaign following the Utilities-Save rebates announced last year to help HDB households offset their utility bills. Both campaigns’ posts are marked with the hashtags like #MOFxStarNgage and #MOFSGxStarNgage.

Prior to last year’s Budget, the MOF had also approached a smaller pool of social media influencers to generate some buzz for various platforms that could be used to provide feedback.

“This is an effective way to engage with youth participants,” said the ministry’s spokesperson.

INFLUENCERS ‘CONCERNED ABOUT BUDGET’

Influencers approached by TODAY were also unwilling to reveal the amounts they are paid by MOF, but said social media is a good platform to engage the public on key issues like the Budget.

“Nowadays not everyone reads (the) newspaper or watches the news on television or online, especially the younger generation, so influencer posts will create more awareness of the Budget,” said stay-at-home mother Shanel Lim, 26.

“I am concerned about this Budget because I myself as a Singaporean, a mother of two kids, will have to face different expenses in future... So I’m keen to know and understand more about the finance Budget down the road,” Ms Lim, who has 11,500 followers on Instagram.

Another influencer, emcee Royce Lee, said he “learnt a lot more about the Budget” through this initiative. “And I got to share (what) I have learnt with my peers... I think (tapping social media is) a good strategy...since most people are on it nowadays,” said the 26-year-old.

Assistant Professor Liew Kai Khiun of Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information said the posts help the Government reach out to an audience that may otherwise not be concerned about the Budget, but provide “only superficial awareness that feedback channels exist”.

“These influencers are also not known for their expertise in the areas of finance and economics... The fact that their posts are sponsored also leads us to question their sincerity,” said Asst Prof Liew.

“That said, the authorities had also tapped social media activists like mrbrown (blogger Lee Kin Mun) for past campaigns, but that may have been more effective because of people like him are more mature and genuinely publicly-conscious,” he added.

Marketing professor Ang Swee Hoon, from the National University of Singapore, said the campaign reflects the ministry’s effort in “keeping up with the times”.

“The Budget often seems to be a very serious topic that appeals more to the cerebral crowd... Thus the MOF is using Instagram to reach out to the masses, especially the younger generation... And rightly so, as Singaporeans should know more about financial planning for themselves and the nation,” said Dr Ang.

 

 

 

 

Read more of the latest on

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Get the latest news

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa