How Ng Kok Song conquered Google overnight

SINGAPORE: As the former GIC chief investment officer, Mr Ng Kok Song minted money for Singapore without getting into the news. A search through the Straits Times online revealed that before his bid for the presidency, he was last in the news in February 2022.

The Straits Times published a Bloomberg report on February 18, 2022, headlined, “Former GIC exec’s low-key fund amasses $13.4 billion for global foray”. It was about Avanda Investment Management, a firm he founded.

Before Avanda, he was not in the news for a whole decade, last appearing in the Straits Times on April 8, 2012, when the newspaper ran a profile on him. Headlined “GIC chief Ng Kok Song’s unlikely fishing village roots”, it was his life story, about how he grew up in a house with a “thatched roof, mud floor, and just two bedrooms”.

His rags-to-riches story is common knowledge now, as he is all over the media in his bid to be president.

Google News results

By one count, he is more in the news than his opponent, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a popular former senior minister with a reputation for brilliance. A Google News search for Ng Kok Song pulled up 2,440 results in 0.34 seconds compared with 1,120 results in 0.41 seconds for Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and 2,990 results in 0.36 seconds for Tan Kin Lian, the third presidential candidate.

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Some of the news about the former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian concerned his controversial “pretty girls” social media posts. No such issues have come up against Mr Ng Kok Song, whose habit of meditation perhaps helps him look as calm as his campaign has been so far.

Digital strategy

Mr Ng Kok Song said in an interview that as GIC chief investment officer he had to formulate a strategy. His campaign, too, has benefited from strategy — digital strategy.

Talking to reporters on a walkabout on August 23, Mr Ng said he would not be putting up posters and banners. “What’s the point of making posters and banners, hang them up for a few days, take them down and then send them to be destroyed as waste?” he said.

Instead, he is focusing on social media.

It could be a smart decision; his eschewing posters and banners could be seen as a green, ecologically friendly move, while his campaigning on social media puts him on everybody’s screen — and Google, too.

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“I’m told that (my social media) reach has been quite spectacular,” he said. “One of my TikTok videos has reached more than two million people. I was very surprised by that.”

 

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Mr Ng Kok Song apparently believes in “just in time” delivery. His Facebook page, which identifies him as a “public figure”, was created only on July 17, just two days before Channel NewsAsia reported his bid to run for president on July 19. The date of creation is mentioned under “Page transparency”.

His website has the domain name, ngkoksong.com. The domain name was created only on June 29 and updated on July 14, according to the WHOIS database found on GoDaddy.com.

But social media cannot catapult everybody to Google ubiquity. Mr Ng Kok Song has conquered Google overnight because his life story is so fabulous. From rags to riches, the young hut dweller turned investment tsar who minted money for Singapore, Mr Ng shows how far one can go in life.

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He reprised that story when, after being nominated for election on August 22, he visited the place where his village once stood, knelt on the ground and kissed it.

Yes, Mr Ng Kok Song has come a long way. Now, only Mr Tharman and Mr Tan stand in his way to the Istana. They are redoubtable figures, too. /TISG

 

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