A Brand New Start: Bran Reluao and His Vision for Digital Politics in the Country
The digital arena is an entire ecosystem that has algorithms as its governing body, users as its community, and followership as its currency.
The internet has changed the game of politics, more so with the rise of social media as a platform to influence people, their opinions, and their so-called reality. Nowadays, communications strategists take their knowledge on digital marketing and apply it to political campaigns, allowing politicians to get to know the voters, stimulate supporter engagement, and possibly persuade their fellow candidates’ advocates to jump ship. “The digital world has become a tool to rally people [to support] a certain cause in a very short period of time,” says Authority Asia CEO Bran Reluao. “Politics is no longer based on gut feelings, but rather on data-driven insights.”
True enough, after the first social media election in 2016, the Filipino political landscape could never be played with the same tricks ever again. Social media has deemed traditional campaigning strategies insufficient. This banks on the fact that the Philippines ranks number two worldwide for having the most time spent on social media.
Redefining politics in the digital age
Bran Reluao, a millennial entrepreneur with the dexterity in digital political campaigning, could be the first in the country to crack the code at using the digital arena in politics. “Digital [media] and politics complement each other,” he claims. “When I say digital politics, it’s a political operation using online or social media platforms to create a certain level of brand awareness or reputation that will be favorable when the campaign comes.”
Like any other campaign strategy, Bran acknowledges that digital politics is not a one-size-fits-all. So, the first step that he does is understanding his client’s goals, followed by conducting an audit analysis using proprietary tools where they get the necessary insight. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a continuous experiment until we hit the perfect strategy that will work for you,” Bran explains.
Making algorithms play on our side
Along with these strategies are the social media platforms’ content authorities: algorithms. Algorithms are in charge of filtering out information that users may deem irrelevant—hence, creating a bubble that could compromise the users ability to discern, since they see only the content similar to those they had previously expressed interest in, while missing out on new information or alternative ideas. Though this may be necessary for brand and reputation building, it poses a question of whether or not algorithms are the enemy in digital politics.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Bran positively answers. In algorithms’ defense, the Authority Asia CEO comments that there are merits to its usage. He describes algorithms as a helpful tool for both content creators and consumers alike. “It tells us what content will be viral, what type of article will get massive views, or what content the audience will most likely take interest in, and so on.”
“When used properly [in digital politics], political aspirants will be able to create an awareness that will help them get votes, or at least introduce them to their target voters,” Bran Reluao notes.
Jumping into the politics of digital media
Having worked with social media and algorithms for at least a decade, Bran nevertheless recognizes the dangers of digital politics. “For me, anyone can be an influencer right now,” he warns. “Even if you’ve only influenced two or three people, they may render you credible and they will accept any content you’ve shared as truth.”
“[With that power], anyone can disguise themselves as a news outlet, and disseminate the wrong information to create bias or tarnish someone else’s reputation,” the young CEO further emphasizes and, therefore, cautions that social media users be mindful of the content they engage with across all platforms.
Bran pinpoints that misinformation happens at the very arena that should have been helping us get to know our candidates better. Although this phenomenon may seem harmless, he believes it’s a pressing concern that we must address as a nation. “It’s one of my ambitions [for the Philippines] to have a public information platform per municipality, so Filipinos can have access to factual information through [social media] pages,” the digital marketing expert proposes. To further realize his vision, he calls on the local government to support the fight against misinformation through digital literacy seminars on the ground level.