On the campaign trail: Social media hots and nots (and some fancy footwork) in #elxnnw this week

Julie Maclellan



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Well, one thing's for certain: I can't get bored on social media watch in this year's #elxnnw campaign.

As Briana Tomkinson (@breebop) observed on Twitter on Nov. 1: "Political Twitter is fun tonight #newwest - what a difference three years makes."

No kidding. Three years ago I couldn't have found enough fodder for multiple blog posts about use of social media, and this year it's all I can do to keep up with everything that's happening. (And even at that, I know I'm not seeing everything, despite my diligent searching of the #elxnnw and #NewWest hashtags.)

In any case, it's been another fun couple of weeks out there, and social media-savvy candidates are continuing to use Facebook and Twitter well in their campaigns. The band of candidates I've come to think of as my "usual suspects" are out there in force - Patrick Johnstone, David Brett, Kelly Slade-Kerr, Mike Folka, Cort Ray Caldwell, Jonathan Cote, James Crosty, MaryAnn Mortensen - and we're seeing a rising presence from some others, including Jeremy Perry, Mary Trentadue, Jonina Campbell, Harm Woldring and a couple of the campaign trail veterans out there, Casey Cook and Michael Ewen.

I'm quite enjoying watching them on Twitter and Facebook - and I particularly like the interesting mix of backgrounds and personalities represented. Though social media might be perceived as a young person's game, certainly not all of our candidates (nor, for that matter, the reporters watching their campaigns) can be classified as "young." Male and female candidates seem to be using social media in equal numbers - and they cross the spectrum as far as political philosophies and points of view go, too.


So what are candidates getting right? Some highlights:

* Providing information: I've harped on this before, but I return to it because I think it's important. Candidates shouldn't just be tweeting and Facebooking "at" voters, they should be gearing their posts "for" voters. Providing useful, non-political information to the community is an important part of campaigning. This week's nod on this front goes to Casey Cook (@CaseyCook_NW), who's been diligent at tweeting out info about where to vote, when to find advance polls, etc. (And yes, some of the information in question directs back to his own website - hey, that's just smart use of social media, as far as I'm concerned: it helps the voters, and it doesn't do you as a candidate any harm either.)

And a second nod on this front to Michael Ewen (@msewen), who took on the daunting task of attempting to tweet a timeline of the NWSS project in 140 characters or less. Bonus points for ambition.

* Focusing their message: You can't please all of the people all of the time - and if you're a wise candidate, you won't try. Obviously, you can't tackle every issue that affects every voter, so why not use your social media platforms to concentrate on what's important to you and central to your campaign? And while you're at it, make it clear just what your own answer is. (Let's face it, we all know traffic sucks, but what's your solution?)

Yes, you might run the risk of alienating those who disagree with you, but what you will do is prove to voters that you are have opinions and a willingness to do something about them. I give the nod on this front to Harm Woldring (@harmwoldring), who's been increasingly using his Twitter feed to focus on issues related to owning and operating a business in New West. He's clearly positioning himself as a supporter of business in the city - and that's helpful for voters looking to pinpoint individuals in a sea of candidates.

* Staying on top of the issues of the moment: Anyone who followed Twitter over the past couple of weeks knows that one of the big discussions centred around the issue of the Labour "Machine" - an issue that's been discussed by non-endorsed candidates fairly extensively, and that really jumped into the spotlight with  The Record's own coverage. (If you missed it, read Pat Tracy's column about labour endorsements here.)

Lots of people (not just candidates, but residents too) have waded in with their observations - be those agreements, criticisms, rebuttals or other suggestions. Agree or disagree, it was an issue that got conversation started - and wise candidates made themselves part of that conversation.

My nod here goes to Patrick Johnstone (@PJNewWest),  who didn't just enter the discussion but used it as a jumping-off point for a post on his own website. Wherever you stand on the issue, Johnstone has made his opinion clear and backed it up with information for voters.  Kudos for that.

* Laughing with us: At risk of sounding like I'm writing a personals ad, I've gotta say, I really do need to know my mayor, city councillors and school trustees have a sense of humour. Yes, I know that running a city is serious business, but I've also got to know that you don't take yourself so seriously that you're incapable of seeing the lighter side of life. Plus, I firmly believe that those with an ability to laugh - especially at themselves, when merited - do better in high-pressure situations. So, yes, I like it when you make me laugh on social media. To me, it says something about you as a candidate and as a person.

Nods this week:

- Kelly Slade-Kerr (@kellysladekerr), for the "We talked to this guy for a long time!" photo

- Patrick Johnstone, Jonathan Cote, Mike Folka and James Crosty for taking @CanSpice's (Brad Cavanagh) bait and answering his tongue-in-cheek question sheet (and, while I'm at it, a special nod to @CanSpice for putting the questions out there in the first place.)

- David Brett, for bringing the 'fro back into vogue

- Jaimie McEvoy, for his Latin-speaking machine

And, of course, I'd be remiss not to mention the four obliging candidates who willingly played along with my call to tweet me their feet - in connection with my last blog post about door-knocking, I asked candidates what they're wearing on their feet as they slog around town. Mike Folka, Jaimie McEvoy, David Brett and MaryAnn Mortensen all obliged by tweeting back pictures of their campaign footwear (and I've gotta say, Jaimie wins my vote for his stylish green offering). Yes, it was silly. No, it wasn't a critical campaign issue. But it was a little bit of light-heartedness to keep us all going through the election slog, and I'm sure other voters appreciated the humour too.

As a last word, bonus points in this category to David Brett and Mike Folka, who rose to the challenge of writing me some slogans for my own use, should I ever be so inclined as to run for office. If you ever see "Don't be unruly, vote for Julie" or "Use your melon, vote MacLellan" on a campaign sign, you may thank these two slogans-for-hire. (And then move out of town very fast, because if I'm ever running for office, we're all in trouble.)

* Staying upbeat and positive: This ties back in to the sense of humour mentioned above, but I like that so many of our candidates are keeping a positive, smiling approach in the face of all the challenges attached to campaigning - and, in some cases, in the face of personal criticism. Social media, and in particular Twitter, makes it very easy sometimes to give in to the temptation to be combative and strike back at critics without thinking twice. There's some merit in using Twitter to debate and engage opponents, yes - but not if you come across as grumpy and negative all the time. This week, I give a special mention to Tej Kainth (@Tej_Kainth) for her gracious handling of a critic on Twitter.

* Being human: Once again, I return to the idea that candidates ought to sound like people, and not just like status update machines. Some candidates seem to do this easily and naturally, while others have required a bit of warming up. In any case, there are several candidates who are working it well on this front these days: Mike Folka, Patrick Johnstone and Cort Ray Caldwell have been good at this all along, while a few others - lately Mary Trentadue, MaryAnn Mortensen and Michael Ewen - have been really emerging as "human beings" as of late. I like that all of them are willing to enter into discussions with people, and also "chat" a bit instead of just repeating their campaign messages ad nauseam.


All that having been said, here are my three stars for this week:

FIRST STAR: Patrick Johnstone

Yes, I keep mentioning Patrick, and that's for good reason - he's a good social media campaigner. He's working his website, blog, Twitter and Facebook page - he's providing information, he's tackling issues, he's voicing his point of view, he's engaging with voters, he's getting involved in political discussions (like the Twitter chatter that broke out during the mayors' debate on Monday night) and he's maintaining a good sense of humour throughout it.

SECOND STAR: MaryAnn Mortensen

MaryAnn rises to a "star" position this week because she's coming on strong. She's entering discussions, she's keeping us informed, she's not afraid to engage those who disagree with her - and she's proving her human side and sense of humour as she goes.

THIRD STAR (tie): Michael Ewen and Mary Trentadue

It's my party, and I'll tie them if I want to. I couldn't decide between Michael and Mary this week, so I decided to name them both. Mary gets points for all the same things I've talked about above - entering discussions, keeping voters informed, offering an engaging and approachable persona. Michael makes my list in particular this week for both his above-mentioned efforts to tweet the history of the NWSS project and his own very informative Facebook post about his own personal journey with social media - and the fact that this is one "old dog" who's not afraid to learn some new tricks.



On the flip side, there's still a few candidates who aren't visible on social media at all - Gavin Palmer, Jim Bell, Cal Donnelly and Rajiv Pandey come to mind - and a few who are there in name but not often in fact, like Tracey Block, Matt Kadioglu and Lorrie Williams. Which isn't to say that they aren't campaigning at all - in at least a few of those cases, I know they're out there getting the message out in other ways - but when it comes to social media, they're not going to earn a "hot" designation anytime soon.

So there you have it. The view from the social media trail as I saw it this week. Who'll rise above the pack next week in the waning days of the campaign? Who'll continue to wear a cloak of invisibility? Stay tuned for next week's instalment to find out - and don't forget to vote.


Want to enter the discussion? Feel free to comment here, or find me on Twitter @juliemaclellan, or Facebook www.facebook.com/JulieLMacLellan.

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