Alberta Politics

the facebook campaign.

Earlier this week I joined Calgary blogger DJ Kelly on CBC Radio’s alberta@noon province-wide call-in show to talk about social media and the upcoming municipal elections. Over the course of the show we had a good discussion about how the Internet is changing how voters seek information about candidates and how social media tools are increasing the ability of candidates to communicate and engage with voters. As I have previously written, while social media tools are too important for a serious candidate to ignore, they do not replace the kind of human contact that is achieved through traditional campaigning, such as door-knocking.

DJ’s most recent blog post used Facebook followings to gauge the support for candidates in Calgary’s competitive Mayoral election. It might not be scientific but the analysis is curiously similar to a recently released poll. The race for Mayor of Edmonton has so far been a lot less exciting than the crowded field of 17 candidates in Calgary. On the Facebook front, Mayor Stephen Mandel is absent. Challengers Daryl Bonar‘s Facebook Page has 483 followers and Dan Dromarsky‘s page has attracted 349 (with a lofty goal of 75,000).

Looking at City Council races, Councillor Amarjeet Sohi appears to be leading the pack with 503 members in his Facebook group. Following Councillor Sohi’s lead are Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra‘s group with 503 members, Ward 7 candidate Brendan Van Alstine‘s group with 291 members, and Ward 11’s Kerry Diotte with 229 members.

Online and on the streets, the Public School Trustee elections are looking like they might be some of October’s most competitive races. The two leaders on the Facebook campaign appear to be Ward F candidate Michael Janz with 717 fans and Ward G candidate Sarah Hoffman‘s group with 769 members. If previous elections are an indicator, these numbers could signal an incredible jump in interest in the School Board elections. Links to more School Board candidates websites and Facebook Pages can be found on the ARTES website.

As the October 18 election day approaches, I will be following and writing more about how candidates are using social media in their campaigns.

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5 replies on “the facebook campaign.”

I trust you will place as much reverence on Facebook for the provincial scene. I believe Rachel Notley and Brian Mason lead the pack there.

Great interview, Dave! I heard about it from three other non-political friends who mentioned that you were on air.

Hopefully the social media use during campaigns continues once candidates reach office. Sue Huff’s blog has been a tremendous resource to me for insights and issues into the past three years of board activities. I wish every trustee and councillor took the time to explain their voting record!

Art: Both Mason and Notley have a strong personal following, so I’m not surprised that they would have that many supporters on Facebook. I’m not sure what reverence that it has on the province-wide scene.

Michael: Thanks for the comment. It has been interesting which politicians have shown that they “get” social media – Sue Huff, Don Iveson – are two good examples of elected officials who “get” social media and how to use it to provide valuable information and its use as an accountability tool. There are many politicians who don’t get it, but use it. They should look to these two as an example of how to use it. (there are others who get it, but these two are good examples).

The sad thing about the net is that eventually these sites get trolled and then you have to sift through all of that cack. Radio and TV broadcasts are still the best way to reach people, even young people.

I see that the community TV channel here in Calgary has been broadcasting a mayors’ forum. They should probably air a forum with a younger audience, though, as the one I saw was with seniors, and that’s like preaching to the converted as far as voting attendance goes. Also, the mayoral candidates get quite a bit of coverage but council candidates don’t get enough airtime, IMO.

By my own observation, almost all candidates are doing a *really* poor job online. The majority of candidates’ strategy is simply to be in existence on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. You can tell they haven’t taken then time to become familiar with what’s expect on each social platform. They’re good at adding a lot of noise, not signal.

On another note, it’s great to see candidates acquiring fans on Facebook. However, I’d suggest that the number of “likes” a candidate receives is hardly an indication of their success on Facebook. Again, they’re using Facebook as a broadcasting engine, which is hardly an effective way to garner engagement from Edmontonians.

With all that said, I do encourage candidates to have a presence online. What’s needed, though, is from them to take the time to understand how each works and how they can utilize it to reach Edmontonians.

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