Sunday, October 23, 2011

#ElectMR - Candidates and Social Media

Because I couldn't resist...

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.

What I love is the willingness of candidates to jump into social media to get their message out and encourage people to vote. As Brian Solis posted recently in his article, Social is the New Normal, "Skeptics will now be recognized as laggards as they now officially stand in the way of progress." So I am excited when I see community leaders, who may have been skeptical, begin to embrace these tools. For me, it is going to be an important consideration as I decide which boxes to pencil in on E-Day (and, yes, WHY are we still pencilling in boxes on a piece of paper?).

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.


  1. Great post, Vicki. When I put forward #ElectMR to the news, I was hoping that the conversation would move and I think it is - albeit, slowly.

    I did create a Twitter list with just candidates if anyone wants to follow the ones that could be found.!/davemacdonald/electmr

    I compiled it by going to each candidate's website (if they have one!) and doing a Twitter search if it wasn't listed. I think these conversations will really benefit the candidates as well the the citizens who get connected.

  2. Thanks for the comment Dave. And for coming up with #Elect MR and #ElectPM. I followed the hashtag conversation on Twitter and I hope to help get the word out. I'm delighted that our candidates are using the medium, just don't want them to be too hamfisted about it - it has such great potential to engage voters - especially a younger demographic that is typically under-represented. Here's to an engaged community!

  3. Great post Vicki! And Dave, great idea to create and share a Twitter list.

    Something else that has come up via Twitter discussion is around the lack of livestreaming or at least recording and sharing the debates. Any of that going on in your hood?

  4. Hey Jamie - thanks! So great to hear from you and, honestly, I was very inspired by your post on the same theme. As far as I know no livestreaming or recording, but I'll post out to my list and see if anyone is up for it. Hoping that the hashtag will generate some twitchat at least.
    Keep up the great work in the 'Wack! You have many fans over here.

  5. Lots of great information here for everyone on social media. Incidentally I did put forward a motion in Council (which was passed) to direct staff to move toward electronic voting. This is in the hands of the Province and Elections BC. I expect that you will see that approved in time for the 2014 elections!There are many that are asking for this and it certainly makes a lot of sense. Its much lower cost once set up, easy to use and it allows those that can't easily get to the polls that opportunity to participate. No down side that I can see as long as they can be sure that its one person one vote and that they are entitled.


  7. Hi Mike - thanks for the comments and HOORAY for supporting e-voting! I think the 2014 elections are going to be a whole different game in terms of social media, and what may be a blunt instrument this time around will become very finely tuned. I'm also really encouraged by the engagement in the topic. Most candidates seem pretty open to learning more about the media - hoping it sticks!

    And Gary - welcome! I'm going to check out your blog, fellow-blogger.