Blog post # 5
After Barack Obama’s first campaign, politicians in Canada began to see the power of social media to influence voters. While Obama’s use of social media to engage supporters seemed to mirror the advice of social media experts – engage, be personable, be sincere, and have a conversation – his imitators north of the border may not be as skilled in reaching out to constituents using this new suite of tools. As various companies offer tools to measure the impact and reach of social media messages, the political arena is one place to directly observe the impact of social media on action outside of the world of “clicks.”
Interestingly, most of our politicians seem to know that they need to use social media tools to stay connected to constituents, but no one is talking about how any particular individual is using the media, except when they post something so inappropriate that they have to resign.
Certainly, their efforts have not resulted in the same excitement and engagement that Obama’s campaign witnessed. While his messages inspired followers to form groups, organize online polls, raise money and hold rallies, with calls to action, Canadian politicians tend to use the tools just to push information. In Canada, politicians give updates, post photos of themselves and their families and open YouTube channels to make their speeches available. But nothing much seems to happen as a result.
Their lack of social media savvy has inspired Mark Blevis, a new media consultant, to set up a website offering “social media makeovers” to MPs across the country, and giving them grades for their performance so far. He finds that most have static web pages, bland Facebook pages, and poor integration of the tools they do use. Looking at four categories – digital ecosystem, content, participation and community, and interruption – he finds most politicians need one of his makeovers because they are only half-heartedly online.
Most pundits hold out hope that Justin Trudeau, most recently famous for his tweet announcing the birth of his new child, will show Canadians how to rouse the populace and reach young voters with the new campaign tools.
I have to admit that I do not follow a single politician on social media – if you do, what are the benefits that you see from engaging in politics in this new, more direct and interactive mode?