Social media key in Malaysia’s national elections – a sign of the times

Nowhere else, perhaps, is the impact of social media more acutely felt these days, than in political elections. Malaysia, which recently held its national elections, is a case in point. With close to 20% of its voters in their twenties, and over 40% in total under 40, having a digital mindset proved a significant factor in political communications. Tony Ong, CFO of Xtrategize, a company that specializes in helping organizations implement strategies while taking into account social media and web technology developments, explains: "This election marked the first time that social media clearly had a bigger impact than printed or broadcast media."

With Internet penetration in-country at over 60%, and people under 40 generally preferring to get their news and information from the Internet rather than mainstream media [the latter is seen as controlled by ruling parties, and therefore deemed unreliable], online commentary was highly influential. [Indeed, once the election results were announced, many of the losing party’s supporters signified their disappointment through a black square on their Facebook update status.]

With a background in shared services and BPO, as well as senior management experience in finance, Ong is primed to bring social media analytics solutions to shared services. He sees particular value in cloud-based solutions, and the impact this added mobility will have on the way organizations work. In particular, he highlights speed of collaboration as a factor for shared services, which often operate across countries. This collaboration will include not just business process analytics data generated internally, but also the multitude of external, web-based information. This next generation of predictive analytics, incorporating big data as well as unstructured data, from a multitude of sources including the internet is an area where many shared services still show gaps in their capability.

One area where Ong sees a lot of potential is in connecting employees in a shared services group, and building community. He also believes that employee surveys would be better served through social media platforms, which lends itself to more honest and open feedback, then traditional survey questionnaires. "People tend to be more engaged through these types of media, Facebook for example," he explains, "and shared services could leverage this."

As time is increasingly at a premium, any medium that is quick and easy to use, will gain in users, Ong believes.

What’s clear is that any organization embracing social media is moving ahead, especially in targeting the sought after Generation "Y". The Tune Group is a prime example of a homegrown Malaysian company that has built its brand successfully via online promotion, with its airline, AirAsia, being today the largest low cost carrier in Asia. It’s done a tremendous job of marketing and branding itself via the web and making the most of online technology. It’s also leveraged the brand’s strength across its other business ventures, like hotels and insurance, and recently announced it is setting up a global shared services center in Malaysia.

It will be interesting to see what new innovative ideas it brings to its shared services model.