KELOWNA – Virtually all candidates in the upcoming civic election are taking advantage of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but the one that has been around the longest is likely still the best at getting the message out.
In 2011, a website used the numbers of Facebook followers to successfully predict not only the winners in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam, but also who would ultimately come in second, third and fourth.
Most local polls show a tight race between candidates Colin Basran and Sharon Shepherd, but judging by their numbers of Facebook and Twitter followers, it would appear one has a distinct advantage.
Shepherd, a former mayor and councillor with decades of leadership experience in the city, has 179 followers on Twitter. Basran has more than 2,000. Shepherd's election Facebook page has 737 members while Basran has almost 2,500.
A few serious candidates are all but ignoring social media tools altogether. Beryl Itani, a woman who organized the evacuation of thousands during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire, is considered by many to be a hero of the community. While she has set up a Facebook page to help boost her profile, so far only 13 people have “liked” her page.
She says she set it up not because it will win her the election but because she wants as many people as possible to know what she stands for.
“Even though I’m not very good at social media, it seems to be the way people are getting their names out there,” she says. “I don’t think it’s critical but it certainly won’t hurt.”
Groups like Taxpayers First and ProsperKelowna are taking full advantage of the mediums open to them and have launched shared Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and YouTube channels. The Taxpayers First Facebook page has over 1,500 likes but the YouTube video introducing their platform has only around 250 views.
Ryan Donn, one of the youngest candidates for council, is no stranger to social media. His Facebook election page has almost 2,000 members and a video about his campaign has been viewed 2,700 times. He also started a Facebook event called “I’m Going to Vote, Nov. 15” to try to engage younger voters. Almost 600 people have joined.
“One of the things I really believe social media is good at is engaging the community,” he says. “With demographics being what they are, I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference on election day.”
Donn says a difference he’s noticed this election is there is very little engagement happening through Twitter.
“Twitter almost means nothing this election,” he says. “Last election I saw Twitter used for conversations, discussions and hard questions. There’s none of that this year.”
Donn says of the options open to candidates looking to get their message across to voters, video is probably the most effective social media tool in a candidates’ toolbox.
“With video, voters can see candidates in front of them, hear them speak and make up their own minds.”
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