Sunday 2 June 2013

If PM Lee really wants to reach young people, he needs to get on Tumblr

Dear Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

Congratulations on launching your Instagram account last week!

The first picture you shared was of the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park with the hashtag “#walkinthepark”. The scenic shot has so far received 240 likes and climbing. Your Instagram already has over 4,800 followers.

When I joined Instagram a year ago, the first picture I shared was a selfie of me on the toilet with no hashtags. The close-up of my big head has so far received one like and zero comments. I have 15 followers.

Clearly, one of us has a better hang of this Instagram thing.

But neither of us can compare with Aaron Aziz who was named Singapore’s Most Popular Actor at last month’s Social Star Awards. The man has more than 234,000 followers on Instagram.

He told The New Paper last week: “It’s really overwhelming, but I think it’s not only about me. I’ve noticed that when I post a picture of my kids on Instagram, it hits something like over 12,000 likes.”

Hey, I would love to exploit my kids for a few thousand likes too – except my wife wouldn’t let me.

She believes that posting pictures of our children online is just an invitation for strangers to kidnap them. Paranoid much? Anyway, my kids aren’t so cute anymore.

Which is why all I have on my Instagram is selfies of me on the toilet – and pictures of food.

It’s an embarrassing cliche, I know, but I take pictures of my meals for the same reason people take pictures of their holidays and of their kids growing up.

You paid a lot for it and you want something more lasting than just the memory after it’s over.

And to me, 20 bucks for a chicken meal at Nando’s is a lot of money. At least the water was free.

But, of course, to be a “social star” like Aaron, you need more than just be on Instagram.

The former Heartlanders star has more than 1.7 million likes on his Facebook page and more than 1.1 million followers on Twitter.

Based on those numbers alone, the Media Development Authority should consider requiring him to get a licence too.

Not a news site, you say? How else do I know Aaron has a new movie coming out on Thursday?

And that he has three ridiculously photogenic children?

I know that you too, Mr Lee, are on Facebook and Twitter. So now that you have joined Instagram, what other social media platforms can you join “to reach more Singaporeans, especially younger ones”?

Well, if you want to reach younger Singaporeans like my 14-year-old daughter, then you really need to get on Tumblr.

And create funny animated gifs involving Dr Who, Benedict Cumberbatch and/or the cast of Glee.

Yes, somehow that’s worth US$1.1 billion (S$1.4 billion) because that was how much Yahoo paid for Tumblr last month.

If you want to reach my 16-year-old son, however, you need to play Urban Rivals, a free multi-player online game “with over 800 characters to discover, collect and level up to fight against players from all over the world!”

I don’t think Yahoo is buying this one... yet.

On the other hand, if you want to reach a slightly more mature demographic of the female persuasion like, say, my wife, may I suggest Pinterest?

As far as I can tell, Pinterest is basically Tumblr for older chicks.

And if you really want to go retro, you can start a blog, like National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s at

You can even earn some extra cash with your blog by signing up for Google AdSense or Nuffnang.

Just don’t start and stop like former SMRT CEO Saw Phaik Hwa did.

She launched her blog with the inscrutable name to much publicity in March last year and has let the domain name expire 12 months later.

She wrote a total of five blog posts over three months. Her last post was on June 1 last year about testifying at the public inquiry into the 2011 train breakdowns.

A memorable line from that post: “Cable ties are better than doing nothing!”

The abandoned blog can still be found at I guess Ms Saw is now too busy being executive director and group CEO of Auric Pacific Group, which owns Sunshine bread among other brands.

Hey, all those California raisin buns don’t bake themselves, you know?

I couldn’t find Ms Saw on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. What? She doesn’t even have time to compose a 140-character tweet or take a picture of her Ferrari?

How to be a social star like that?

At least I can now follow the Prime Minister of Singapore on Instagram. I can’t wait for your first food picture.

SM Ong

PS: Do you know anyone who actually uses Google+?

- Published in The New Paper, 2 June 2013