Coronavirus screening-related posts published by Hong Kong government’s publicity arm emerge as most read notes on Facebook

Ng Kang-chung
·3-min read

A Facebook post by the Hong Kong government’s publicity arm about arrangements for the community Covid-19 testing programme last summer has emerged as its most read message in 2020, with a reach of 863,404, authorities have revealed.

The second and third most read messages were also posts appealing to Hongkongers to take part in the testing programme. The one on August 31 reached 493,443 people, while the other on September 4 was read by 468,210 people.

The figures were disclosed in papers prepared by the Information Services Department and distributed to legislators on Monday.

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The department runs the online bulletin, news.gov.hk, to provide the public with news and information about the government and its activities. It also has accounts on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat and Weibo.

The department’s Instagram post with the highest number of “likes” in 2020 was the one on July 1 about the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Hong Kong’s handover to China, attracting 1,348 clicks of approval. Another one, posted on October 1 and marking National Day, attracted 1,166 likes and came second. The third most “liked” Instagram post was on October 28, and featuring Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and senior officials receiving the seasonal flu vaccination, with 663 likes.

As of February 2021, the department’s Facebook page, launched in November 2014, had 142,883 followers, while its Instagram account, launched in November 2015, had 68,607. Its Twitter and Weibo accounts, launched in July 2010, had 64,161 and 1.16 million followers, respectively.

The online bulletin, news.gov.hk, provides the public with news and information about the government and its activities. Photo: Sun Yeung
The online bulletin, news.gov.hk, provides the public with news and information about the government and its activities. Photo: Sun Yeung

Commenting on the relatively small number of followers on the Hong Kong government’s social media accounts, Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said: “Part of the problem is the unpopularity of the government. Also, for a post to be popular and attract likes or shares, it has to be interesting and meaningful. You can’t just post a press release on Facebook and hope it will become an online hit.”

The Facebook page of the Singapore government has 422,786 followers, while that of the Japan government has almost 3.36 million, according to information available online.

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Fong added: “Government posts do not necessarily have to be boring. They can learn from Donald Trump. When he was the president, his Twitter account attracted millions of followers and he could basically dominate the world media through his Twitter posts.”

Meanwhile, the Information Services Department also disclosed it had spent some HK$1.6 million on a blitz against fake news and misinformation over the past 1½ years.

This included the production of 22 videos since November 2019 that had been released through Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as public broadcaster RTHK. The production cost was about HK$430,000 (US$55,000), while publicity on social media platforms cost about HK$45,000.

The department had also run a HK$1.1 million campaign to urge the public to properly fact check online information.

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