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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Facebook as a Tool for Election Awareness and Education
With the 2018 General Election scheduled to be held any time between April and November, the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] aims maximize its awareness platform to inform and educate as many voters from across the country, as well as regional and overseas registered voters. Community mobilization through social media is an empowering and engaging platform that the FEO has invested into since the 2014 General Election. Already, more than 12 per cent of Facebook users in the country are engaging with the FEO through this platform. The Fijian Elections Office has two Facebook pages, one for the Fijian Elections Office (@Fijianelectionsoffice) and the other for the upcoming 2018 General Elections known as Fiji Elects 2018 (@FijiVotes2018).

The popularity of social media in Fiji has steadily increased since 2014, with 2017 statistics revealing more than 421,000 internet users in the country, of which over 380,000 were Facebook users. As of January 2018, the Fijian Elections Office page had over 50,000 likes and followers while the Fiji Elects 2018 page had over 34,000 likes and followers. Statistics also revealed that over 82,000 people had in some way seen or read posts through both pages. The number of pages likes and followers for the Fijian Elections Office compared to the number of Facebook users in the countries converts to around 12.9 per cent.

The strategy of the FEO for social media is to post positive posts and critical election updates. This way negative publicity is minimized as followers are only given positive stories that are relevant for upcoming elections. The impact of this strategy is evident through the increasing popularity of the FEO Facebook platform. An example is the Fiji Elects 2018 Facebook Page, which has only been active for less than a year and has already reached over 34,000 followers.

Live Streaming of Events
The FEO shares live feeds of all important electoral events on its social media pages. This eliminates inhibition in terms of being confined in front of a Television set to see the event happening live. Through sharing live feeds, the voters that have access to smart phones and internet, are able to view the electoral events live where ever they may be at that point in time – in school, at a restaurant, in a bus, etc.

Facebook as a Medium of Advertisement
All vacancies and Tenders are advertised on the FEO official FB pages. There is visible interest from the public for wanting to work for the FEO. This is evident from the high number of likes and comments on these posts.

This interest is amplified when users share the post amongst their networks and encourage them to apply as well. This is evident from the high number of shares and tags on each of these posts.

Case Study 1: Recruitment Drive
The FEO utilized a number of mediums, through both traditional media as well as contemporary media, to inform the interested individuals that wanted to apply to become Election Officials in the 2018 General Election. However, the only medium of advertisement used by the FEO to inform these people to register to be able to sit the online test on Day 1 of the Recruitment Drive, was Facebook. In just two days, all 70 slots for the test in the Central Division was full.

This exemplifies the effectiveness of Facebook as a vital tool and platform for election related advertisements.

Schedules of Activities and Events
The FEO shares schedules of upcoming activities and major events on its Facebook page. The users are able to identify the events that will take place at a venue nearest to them in order to maximize participation. Users from a particular area that are interested in an event can also flag their interest, if they are unable to attend the sessions that are currently planned. Whilst the FEO might not be able to address all the needs flagged, it is certainly important baseline information when planning future activities and events. These posts are also boosted for relevant areas to increase awareness and maximize participation.

Case Study 2: Overseas Voter Registration Drive
Overseas Voter Registration Drive schedules were shared and boosted in areas where the FEO teams had planned to visit. This helped in boosting the turnout of Fijian citizens to participate in the Overseas Voter Registration Drive. As a result, the FEO managed to provide voter election services to up to 2900 Fijians living overseas out of which, 696 were new registrations.

Personal Engagement with Followers
During festive seasons, the FEO posts personal messages and well wishes on the FB page. These messages are from the FEO staff and addressed to the Fijian citizens and FEO FB followers. The personal messages give a platform for the FEO staff to be seen as approachable and caring individuals who have customer service skills and community engagement at the heart of the work that they do. This helps build the organizational image as well instills confidence of the people in the FEO and the FEO staff.

Case Study 3: Christmas Greetings
The FEO posted Christmas and New Year messages from various directorates and staff over a period of three weeks. This allowed members of the public and followers on social media to see the faces of the staff working behind the scenes to prepare for the 2018 General Election. This interaction was an opportunity for the FEO staff to send followers festive greetings during the holiday period.

Encourage Participation Through Polls and Quizzes
Feedback from Facebook users and members of the public has been positive with regards to the Fijian Elections Office response rate, open conversations and interactions on social media. In a bid to further increase the interaction on social media, the FEO ran polls online to gauge the knowledge of social media followers regarding electoral process. It gained huge popularity as many members of the public proved they are well versed with some of the processes while some social media followers even requested for information in areas which they are were not sure of.

Feedback from Facebook users and members of the public has been positive with regards to the Fijian Elections Office response rate, open conversations and interactions on social media. Overall the Fijian Election Office brand viewership has increased significantly with more members of the public logging in to view live feeds, events and updates. Facebook has also proven to be an efficient tool to effectively reach and disseminate key election information with the youths, which form a large portion of the electorate in Fiji.