Gillian Shaw: B.C. leadership candidates not impressing with social media efforts

Like it or loathe it, or even if you like to loathe it, headlines in the B.C. media are going to be dominated by our two main political parties’ leadership races for several months — until April at the earliest, when the BCNDP elects their leader.

Whether or not these races within the parties will lead to a general election is not yet known. But one thing that is known by everyone with a passing interest in modern politics is the value of social media in running a political campaign.

That is, everyone except the candidates themselves.

The Vancouver Sun’s Gillian Shaw has been following the various candidates and their social media campaigns, and in the early going, they all seem pretty underwhelming — although the Liberal front-runners have done a much better job of building a Twitter support base. While no NDP candidate has more than 200 followers, Kevin Falcon [pictured] and Christy Clark have around 2,000 each; although it’s likely that there is some overlap in their bases of followers.

Shaw compares some other social media numbers in her blog, and as you can see, compares those numbers to those of Naheed Nenshi, the out-of-nowhere candidate for the Calgary mayorship who beat out several establishment candidates thanks largely to his skills with social media. As Shaw explains, those social media skills can be key in any election:

I have been tracking the Liberal candidates’ online standing with the help of Sysomos, a Marketwire company, and while there is a lot of buzz, it’s nothing compared with what happened with Nenshi during the Calgary election.

Is it too early in the leadership race to tell if social media are making a difference?

Anduro president Jeff Nelson says yes. “One of the ‘secrets’ that I have learned about Nenshi’s campaign is that the team focused on political keeners. Guess what? This group are avid users of social media. So the objective was to build a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during the first four months of the six-month campaign,” Nelson wrote in response to my Sysomos post.

It’s important to note that Nenshi did all his own tweeting; the same can’t be said for the Liberal candidates, although Moira Stilwell says she posts all her own tweets.

It’s almost mind-blowing the way that the B.C. candidates are ignoring social media as a tool for generating buzz. I mean, they do realize it’s free, right?

Anduro’s Jeff Nelson makes a good point in his commentary when he mentions how “political keeners” are “avid” in their use of social media. I don’t know about you, but come election time, my Twitter and Facebook feeds are just swamped with amateur politicos of all stripes giving me their opinions about whatever race is happening and who their favourite candidates are. Mobilize a social media campaiogn, and you mobilize what is basically a free army of volunteers. Can’t hurt, right?