It’s election day in Ontario. FullDuplex.ca has been conducting detailed analysis of the role of digital in the election, primarily at the level of the four main parties, their leaders and the most discussed issues. Mark will be making a number of appearances on Ottawa television today, so we thought it would be fitting to create a “Digital campaign report card” covering Ottawa’s field of election candidates.
Let’s begin with my observations.
Less is more
Have you ever heard the saying “less is more”? When it comes to effectively using social media, this saying can definitely apply. On the surface it might look better to have a presence on all available platforms. However, it might not work out to your benefit. When doing this research, I noticed that often the candidates who scored the best on various platforms were the ones who had only one or two social media profiles aside from their website. Having a limited number of profiles makes it easier to focus their efforts in a select few places, and do so more effectively. Another advantage of fewer online properties is that it allows your ecosystem as a whole to be more connected. It’s much easier to stay coherent when you have to be in fewer places at one time.
Websites were often my starting point with each candidate for this research. That is if I could find the websites. While many of the candidates have their own websites, this isn’t always the case. Many of the Green Party candidates don’t have their own website. Instead they have a profile on the Green Party of Ontario website, linking to their various social media properties. Even though these profiles often provide all the information I was looking for, there were other times when information and links were missing. On the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes found myself having to figure out which website to use for Progressive Conservative candidates. Searches for PC candidates often revealed two websites: one in the candidate’s name and one for the riding association. This often led to confusion since it wasn’t always clear which website featured the most accurate and up-to-date information. In those cases I would refer to a candidate’s social media accounts to see which website they linked to. Even then, it wasn’t always clear.
A website is your most important online property during an election. Your website is the first place potential voters will go to in order to get more information about you. As such, you need to make sure the information on your website is clear and easy to find. Present links to your social media profiles in plain view and make sure those links actually work and go to the right pages. Have pages on your own website clearly labeled in a way that accurately describes what visitors might expect to find on those pages. The less is more rule applies here again: having too much information will overwhelm visitors.
It’s about more than just broadcasting
Though the main goal of many individuals seeking election is to get their message out to potential voters in order to secure their votes, social media efforts should be about more than just broadcasting messages. In many ways, social media allows you to connect with more voters than you would be able to if you had to go to every single house/apartment in your riding. Social media doesn’t replace that effort, nor should it. Among other things, on very rainy days, “social media door knocking” might be more comfortable and productive.
Just as you would interact with voters if you were meeting them in person, you should also try to interact with voters online. Tweet back to users who send you messages, respond to comments on your Facebook posts. Doing so will make you seem more approachable and will help voters connect with you.
Be connected…but not repetitive
While a connected digital ecosystem is good, individual properties should still be separate and used for their specific purposes. With Twitter and Facebook especially, it has become very easy to lazily connect the two accounts so that anything posted to one will be automatically cross-posted to the other. This may sound like a good plan. In practice, it makes you sound repetitive.
Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be used for the same purpose. Short messages are better suited to Twitter while longer, more nuanced messages, often with visuals, are better suited to Facebook. Basically, the same content in the same format shouldn’t appear on both platforms. Be creative. Be remarkable. Give people a reason to follow you and engage with you on a variety of platforms.
Profiles vs. Fan Pages
This observation applies specifically to Facebook, but it’s still one that needs to be made. There is an important difference between a Facebook profile and a Facebook fan page. With a profile, you become “friends” with other users and share content with them that way. With a fan page users “Like” your page and that page then becomes a platform you can use to share content with those users.
There are benefits and challenges to both forms of Facebook presence. Candidates and politicians will probably find that fan pages are best suited to their goals. That’s not to say that you can’t use your personal profile to connect with voters. You might find yourself more guarded using your personal profile for public service might be just more limited in terms of what you can do if you choose that route.
About the grades
In an effort to grade all 36 candidates in a somewhat objective way, I developed a marking scheme to evaluate each of their online properties. I created criteria specific to each platform and assigned a mark out of three for each criteria. Generally, I looked to see if candidates were using each platform in the most effective way possible, not just to broadcast their message but also to engage with voters. I considered if the candidate sounds like genuine human being or if their posts seem robotic. I checked to see if their properties were connected to one another and how recently fresh content was posted, and so on.
Here are some of the more specific things I looked for when evaluating each candidate’s online properties.
- Is complete contact information available?
- Are links to social media profiles available and working?
- Is information easy to find?
- Is the candidate’s Twitter biography complete (including photo) and is there a link to the campaign website?
- Do they tweet regularly and engage with potential voters?
- Do they have a Facebook fan page or a personal profile?
- If they only have a personal profile are their security settings such that any visitor can see the posts without being a Facebook friend of the candidate?
- Does that candidate post a variety of content?
- Have they branded their YouTube channel?
- How recent are the videos?
- Do the candidates appear to be comfortable in the videos or do they sound scripted/robotic?
- Does the candidate realize they even have a Google+ account?
- Are the photos labeled and given a description?
- Are the photos organized into specific streams/albums?The Grades
- CMM: Carleton-Mississippi Mils
- GPR: Glengarry-Prescott-Russell
- LFLA: Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington
- NC: Nepean-Carleton
- OO: Ottawa Orléans
- OS: Ottawa South
- OV: Ottawa Vanier
- OWN: Ottawa West-Nepean
- **In Ottawa-Orléans, the incumbent is not running for re-election. The riding has been Liberal since 2003.
|Raymond St. Martin||GPR||GPO||—||C-||C+||D-||C+||—||C-|