|This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on September 10, 2008.|
Canada goes to the polls on October 14, and while this will be a campaign once again fought with lawn signs and rhetoric, this time around Canadian politicians have discovered the internet’s social media toolbox.
The NDP, Liberals and Conservatives all have sections on their official websites dedicated to social networks, YouTube channels, and Facebook pages. The Greens have a blog and the NDP go one step further by offering up blogging tools that include a video widget, official logos and photos.
“It was inevitable that all the Canadian leaders show up on social media sites,” says technology journalist Andy Walker. “Any politician that is not paying attention runs the risk of showing up as yesterday’s man.”
Yes, they are paying attention, but David Brodie, a former advisor to Paul Martin, sums up the current efforts with one word.
“Weak,” he wrote in a chat conducted via Twitter. “All could learn from Gordon Brown and Obama. Should [be] engaging users rather than pushing out their msg with new tools.”
Barack Obama’s campaign in the US has been engaging with his use of tools like Twitter, and his own social network, MyObama. He offers tools for voters to add logos, buttons, information, policies, videos, newsfeeds and more to their own websites or to print off hard copies and distribute within their neighborhood.
Amber Mac, a new media strategist, agrees that Obama has the social media aspect of the internet nailed.
“They’re very active environments,” she says. “You can tell its part of his priority, as far as running the campaign, while in Canada it seems like an after thought.”
The Canadian campaigns have tried to implement some of the tools, but the conversation part of social media is missing. For the most part, they are just using new media tools to bark out their message.
“On the web you need to be more authentic,” says Amber. “You can maybe fool mainstream media, but you can’t fool the online community.”
“Online communities really need to be nourished and allowed to grow. So if they really want to get invested in leveraging the web to build up loyal voters for their parties, then they need to be more present there and more active. It might be a little too late for this election.”
Still, Andy Walker thinks these applications could end up being the deciding factor in a tight race.
“I think the key social media technology will be Facebook because of its reach, at least for the youth and 20/30something vote. If the election is close, working social media is going to be the swing vote.”
A DEEPER LOOK
For more analysis of how the parties are using Social Media, including a party by party breakdown of the tools each are using, visit The Blog According to Buzz
Here is an audio stream of the full interview with Amber Mac
My Name Is Kate also has an excellent analysis of the parties, their web layouts and the effectiveness of their social media tools.