Carrie Lam and social media: A bad but irrelevant romance

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Carrie Lam’s attempt to become a social media darling has come too late and in a way too disconnected with both her supporters and haters. But opinion polls don’t win elections.

Chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (林鄭月娥)’s social media campaign has come to a point where it is almost pointless to carry on, for the more she says on her Facebook page, the more netizens will have something to ridicule. For Lam, however, even a successful online campaign is nothing more than icing on the cake as the impact is likely to be minimal when it comes to the ballot box.

Since her official Facebook page @carrielam2017 was launched on 6 February, a total of 19 posts have been published and ‘angry face’ emojis have topped reactions to all these posts with no exception. While Hong Kong politicians are generally underperforming when it comes to social media, Lam has simply set a new standard for her associates with an average of almost 10,000 angry emojis per post.

Meanwhile, Lam’s main underdog rival, John Tsang Chun-wah (曾俊華), is skewing the statistics on the positive end with constant flash of awe and appreciation even from the usually demanding observers.

In fact, Lam was well aware of her comparative disadvantage on the social media front. Early after announcing her bid for the city’s top job, Lam remained asserting that she did not want to open a Facebook page as that was not her thing. Instead, a Facebook page called “We撐林鄭 (We Support Carrie Lam)” was taking the lead for Lam in the early days. “Rumours that the ‘We Support Carrie Lam’ page was set up and operated by Robert Chow Yung (周融) aside, that could have been a better strategy for Lam,” Simon Lee Chao-fu (李兆富), renowned political and market commentator, said. “Then came her own official page possibly because of worries over regulations on election advertisement, but her supporters naturally do not appreciate that kind of style, nor does Lam herself fit into that style. As it turns out the page has become a target of online attacks.”

Lee, who is also the founder of public affairs consulting firm AdvB offering social media analysis services, added: “Social media is all about getting personal. Lam had never appeared in front of the public in a personal capacity and only started building up her personal image shortly before announcing to run for chief executive. So you can’t compare her online efforts with Tsang who already has built up his middle-class, accommodative image long ago.”

An irrelevant defeat

“That being said, it doesn’t mean that John Tsang will necessarily be a more accommodative chief executive, for there are constraints as to what a chief executive can achieve in terms of communication under close watch by Beijing. So I don’t see the honeymoon period being long for Tsang even if he wins the election,” Lee contended. “In a way, the striking contrast of Lam and Tsang on social media is also partly a result of the latter being the underdog. In this sense, people have already anticipated the final winner.”

(Printer – R&R Publishing, Suite 705, 7/F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road Central, HK)