Monday, October 17, 2011

Social Media, Citizen Engagement and Municipal Politics

There is forum at the Victoria Social Media Club tonight discussing the topic of social media municipal politics.  I am one of the panelists because of my use of some sort ofsocial media for political campaigning in since 1999 - I can talk at length why I have come to hate Facebook.

I have become a skeptic about how useful social media is as a political campaigning tool.   This is mainly because when you reach and communicate with 100 to 300 people via social media you feel like you are talking to a lot of people but in reality you are reaching almost none of your possible voters.   The two way communication of social media masks the very low numbers of people you reach.    In the City Victoria you need to reach 65,000 voters which is impossible via social media.

I am going to look at the 30 of the 31 candidates and one slate that Dan Pollock has managed to find Twitter feeds for and see how they are all doing.  Barb Desjardins was acclaimed as mayor in Esquimalt so her feed is not a campaign tool and I am not including it.

The stats are all from this morning as I write this: I missed out two people earlier that I was already following in twitter, so this is 32 candidates and one slate.
  1. Dean Fortin - Victoria Mayor - 1367 followers - 250 tweets - only following 14 people
  2. Frank Leonard - Saanich Mayor - 966 followers - 865 tweets
  3. Aaron Hall - Victoria Council - 957 followers - 5875 tweets - the only really serious social media user among all the candidates running this time, he will also be on the panel with me this evening.
  4. Shauna Salsman - Sooke Council - 634 followers - 333 tweets - this account seems to be from her campaign as the Green candidate for Esquimalt Juan de Fuca in May.
  5. Jesse McClinton - Saanich Council - 486 followers - 1052 tweets
  6. Lillian Szpak - Langford Council - 417 followers - 369 tweets - I think this account is from when she ran to MP in Esquimalt Juan de Fuca this year
  7. Marianne Alto - Victoria Council - 393 followers - 115 tweets
  8. Lisa Helps - Victoria Council - 318 followers - 439 tweets
  9. Dean Murdock - Saanich Council - 308 followers - 305 tweets
  10. Phillipe Lucas - Victoria Council - 296 followers - 176 tweets
  11. Carl Jensen - Central Saanich Council - 288 followers - 244 tweets
  12. David Bratzer - SD#61 Board - 271 followers - 180 tweets
  13. Tim Morrison - Esquimalt Council - 184 followers - 54 tweets
  14. Rob Wickson - Saanich Council - 176 followers - 110 tweets
  15. Ben Isitt - Victoria Council - 172 followers - 28 tweets
  16. James McNulty - Central Saanich Council - 108 followers - 10 tweets
  17. Dave Hodgins - Esquimalt Council - 102 followers - 956 tweets - this is not a new account
  18. Adam Olsen - Central Saanich Council - 94 followers - 274 tweets
  19. Shellie Gudgeon - Victoria Council - 85 followers - 56 tweets
  20. Dave Bennett - Sooke Mayor - 75 followers - 52 tweets
  21. Grant McLachlan - Langford Council - 61 followers - 62 tweets
  22. Vicki Sanders - Saanich Council - 51 followers - 84 tweets
  23. Paul Brown - Victoria Mayor - 45 followers - 106 tweets
  24. Larry Cross - Sidney Mayor - 44 followers - 10 tweets
  25. Steve Filipovic - Victoria Mayor - 41 followers - 115 tweets
  26. Shari Lukens - Colwood Council - 41 followers - 57 tweets
  27. Tara Ney - Oak Bay Council - 39 followers - 10 tweets
  28. Kyara Kahakauwila - Metchosin Council - 32 followers - 12 tweets
  29. Open Victoria - slate for Victoria Council - 26 followers - 11 tweets - I am one of the people that tweets for this account
  30. Linda McGrew - Victoria Council - 23 followers - 18 tweets
  31. Brian Tucknott - Colwood Mayor - 16 followers - 21 tweets
  32. Michelle Kirby - Oak Bay Council - 13 followers - 1 tweet - very new account
  33. Andrew Britton - View Royal Mayor - 8 followers - 8 tweets - no account pic
For comparison, my twitter account has 1058 followers and 4499 tweets.

As you can see, almost half have fewer than 100 followers.   

There is only one serious user of social media on the list - Aaron Hall.   Two major local mayors top the list have been using twitter in office, but neither one often and one only as a broadcast method.

If you are trying to reach 65,000 voters in the City of Victoria, having 650 followers is only 1% of the voter base, and that assumes all the followers are from the City of Victoria.  In comparison in afternoon in the Cook Street village you can shake 100 to 200 hands in person of which you can be fairly certain almost all of them can vote in the City of Victoria.

In my opinion the top six twitter users from the list:
  1. Aaron Hall
  2. Frank Leonard
  3. Dean Fortin
  4. Jesse McClinton
  5. Lisa Helps
  6. Dean Murdock
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