It's civic election time where I live, and along with pumpkins, golden leaves and umbrellas, local candidates are showing up all over the landscape. And where I'm noticing them most is in the social media landscape. Many are first-time users of the medium, some have been putzing about on Facebook or Twitter, and a handful seem to really understand the medium and have been using it effectively for some time.
There is more to it, though. Social media is about engagement, it is about connecting in an authentic way with people. Partly this is why I am so hooked on it. And I want leaders who are willing to be authentic - I want leaders who are willing to engage. Social media will fundamentally change the way decisions are made. It is already doing so. Rigid communications models have given way to conversational models - citizens have numerous channels to express their opinions and influence their neighbours. In the same article, Solis notes that "Those active within social networks wield far greater influence offline than their more traditional counterparts". And many of our local candidates are nothing if not traditional. So I applaud them for the foray into social media (APPLAUSE!)
So, how are my local candidates doing? (There are 28 of them, by the way. I thought about doing an analysis of each candidate's digital footprint, similar to the one done by my amazing colleague, Jamie Billingham over in Chilliwack - but 28! Come on.)
I started with a Facebook search using Maple Ridge - the name of my town. The result?
Three local candidates come up with Facebook Pages in this search. I know there are many more on Facebook as they have been friending me like crazy. But they don't seem to have Pages - or if they do, they don't have Maple Ridge in the title. I like Pages. Both 'like' and like. Firstly, they're public, searchable, and I can opt-in. Frankly, I don't want to have to personally 'friend' a politician, whose main interest is in selling me their vote over the next few short weeks, in order to find out what they think about issues. I might like to maintain my privacy. (Some are friends. That's different.) So my plea - enable subscriptions! That way if you insist on using your friend profile as a political platform, at least I can subscribe and still maintain my privacy. Better yet, create a Page - and use it.
And to my FB friends sans Pages who are also candidates: I love you. I love your posts, but my feed is getting crowded with punditry. Extra points to those of you who have created private Groups and invited those who want to engage, support and rally round you!
I think Twitter is a natural for politicians because it is all about connecting with people you don't know. Brilliant if you are trying to engage 'the public'. It is also an excellent online listening tool...(hint).
I did a hashtag search using #mapleridge and the election hashtag #ElectMR. The result?
One! One candidate comes up in the Twitter search using the hashtags. I know there are more out there cuz they're following me...tweeps, use the hashtags! (Disclaimer: I did my search on a Sunday. Maybe candidates don't tweet as much on a Sunday?)
Websites, Blogs and More...
An organic Google Search of 'candidates maple ridge' brings up the following on the first page:
Only two - and one is a tweeter, who has, I know, a website. A visit to the District of Maple Ridge website offer a list of the candidates and their contact information. Most have websites. Some are very good. Some have current blogs. And some of the blogs are very good (and some are not so very good - not so very sticky as we say in web-land). And they are not showing up in the organic searches. Too bad :( Websites and blogs are a big investment in time and money, but if no-one can find them....
The social media community is huge - and growing every day - and like any community it has a culture, norms and etiquette. I'm thrilled that potential civic leaders are entering the digital community. I'm on the look-out for meaningful digital footprints and online listening. I'm hopeful that the skilful use of these tools means greater openness, transparency and engagement in local government.
Yes - it is all about me. I'm a voter. I'm an 'Egosystem'.
To quote once again the awesome Brian Solis: "The Egosystem is an endearing term that describes the nature of the social graph. Rather than a social ecosystem, it is quite literally an egosystem where the entire experience revolves around you. You are at the center of everything. The information that you see, the people around you, what you share, are all unique to you. And, your experience will be absolutely different than mine or anyone else for that matter. As such, the egosystem is personal, powerful and reflective of all that moves you."
Candidates: Move me.
To find out more about the civic elections in Maple Ridge click here.