COM0011 – Blog #3 – Jim Watson: Leading by Example

Lately I’ve spent a lot of my time looking at how influential people use social media then I was reminded, by a bit of course content, that politicians do it too. It didn’t take me long to get a reminder of this, I flipped to Twitter and BAM! Jim Watson! Not only is Jim Watson the Mayor of Ottawa but he’s also a one-man Twitter machine.

Jim Watson photo courtesy of Metro News.

Jim Watson photo courtesy of Metro News.

In an interview last year with Ottawa Rickshaws Watson answered a number of questions about how he uses Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo and what he sees as the benefit for the community. It was refreshing to hear him say he saw it as an opportunity to help grow the city.  In the article Watson admitted that social media has become so consuming in his way of life that “it’s very hard to imagine not using it.”  It doesn’t mean he’s a role model user, but his activities sure do inspire.

Months away from an election Watson turns to Twitter to communicate with his followers, answer questions and ‘joke around’ with colleagues. In the middle of his term, during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games Watson became a nation news story. As athlete’s around the globe were speaking out on Russia’s anti-gay laws leading up to the Olympics Watson and company in Ottawa raised the Pride Flag as a sign of respect. When a follower felt the urge to call these actions “a stupid waste of time” Watson struck Twitter gold. His response: “If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote”.

It’s difficult to suggest what may help or hinder a political career, and how social media impacts those factors. But it can’t be denied that for a man like Jim Watson, who’s made himself so available on social media, it can only help. Sure, there are risks to being open on social media, but a smart, savvy approach can really make a difference. (Did I miss any major risks here? Let me know in the comments!) As Watson moves forward into the next election armed with Tweets and Blogs he’s aligned himself with a new audience, reaches a new demographic of voters and shows  a human element which can only help him generate grass roots support.

How do you feel about politicians and social media? Do you feel a stronger connection to someone who Tweets or posts to Facebook?

3 thoughts on “COM0011 – Blog #3 – Jim Watson: Leading by Example

  1. Jim Watson has done a great job at presenting himself as mayor and a citizen with real beliefs. I think it’s refreshing that he is not shy about speaking out on Twitter. His viral tweet: “If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote,” in response to someone who criticized the pride flag (“This is a stupid waste of time. You’ve lost my vote.”) was absolutely risky. I’m sure many campaign managers would have disapproved of that one, but we see far too many politicians using stock lines in social media and, in my opinion, that’s not the purpose. I think politicians should keep it real online and save the official comments for the press.

  2. I also agree that Jim Watson is doing a great job with social. He may want to connect with Mackay!. Two internal emails he recently sent to his staff around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have been made public and,in this case, there is a lot of negative buzz happening via social media. It’s times like these where a politician needs to move quickly and address the concerns or it becomes a PR disaster.

  3. Social media was largely credited with the election of Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi in 2010. Voter turnout was higher than previous elections at 53%. During the entire campaign, Mayor Nenshi showed his mastery of twitter and other social media by connecting with a whole demographic that was not engaged by the other candidates. He continues with a large following. His posts are genuine, to the point and often include humour. Here’s a recent exchange:

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