The Powerful Role of Social Media in the Canadian Election
With less than a week to go, the final stretch of the 2015 Canadian election campaign trail is among us. Similar to every election, Canadian political leaders have ramped up their marketing efforts the last month to try to clinch onto any voters who are still unsure on who to vote for.
But unlike most previous elections, social media has played a large role in this year’s campaigns, for both the candidates and voters.
Now that an astonishing 82% of Canadians are active on social media, politicians have been leveraging social platforms even more to push their messages to the masses.
Does social media have the potential to improve the previous election’s turnout of 61%? And can a Facebook post or a 140 character tweet influence the public’s vote?
Let’s further explore how political leaders are successfully influencing the masses using their social platforms and how the voters can join in on this conversation.
Social Media Scrutiny: A Look at Political Leaders’ Influence
Social media is an important tool to a politician’s campaign because it has the opportunity to reach a large number of voters quickly. At a time when people expect immediate results, politicians don’t have time, or the funds, to create a new TV commercial, or attend a speaking conference to spread their message. Like any brand, politicians must react immediately, and provide answers to the general public.
And social media allows them to do that.
Not only do voters have the opportunity to listen to messages that these leaders are pushing out, but they also have the opportunity to engage and have their message heard, a crucial factor in getting the millennial generation out to vote.
So let’s take a look at what leaders are doing well (and maybe not so well) online.
From the results, the Conservative party has successfully collected 145,000 more followers on Twitter than their closest competitor – the Liberals. But the Liberals have effectively secured the top position for having the most Facebook Likes and YouTube Subscribers.
Besides sheer numbers, it is also helpful to understand and look at the growth of each party’s online audience. Here we compare, by accounts, which party has grown their online community the most on Facebook and Twitter in the last month.
Source: Social Bakers
Source: Social Bakers
Why is online growth important? Why does having more followers, likes or subscribers even matter?
Having a large online audience will inevitably make a politician’s voice louder. The larger the audience size, the more people are potentially listening. The more listeners, the more influential someone becomes. But, quantity is not always advantageous or beneficial, which leads me into my next point.
The quality of the audience.
At InNetwork, we continually stress the importance of vetting quality influencers. In this case, politicians are technically influencers for their own brand. In order to determine the quality of the influencer, an important metric is the authenticity of their social networks.
For example, determining whether a Twitter account contains fake followers is one way to help identify audience authenticity. Although this only focuses on one social network, I found the results quite interesting on the 4 major political leaders running in the upcoming election.
Here are my findings:
Without poking fun at the poor scores, let’s be optimistic and center our attention on the positives.
If we focus on the real audience members (operated by real people, not bots), each leader still has a large online following. Do these results make you confident in each politician’s authenticity?
Influence goes beyond the number of followers you have. So I used Klear to gather a few engagement metrics to get an overall view of the parties’ social presence:
Online activity is very important. The more active someone is online, the more an audience will remain engaged. If posts are infrequent, listeners are less likely to pay attention. Audience members must be constantly reminded about someone’s presence.
The Green party is the most active on Twitter by a long shot, sending out 11.2 tweets per day (on average).
Speaking of the Greens and their high level of online activity, something very fascinating happened during the Globe and Mail leaders’ debate in Calgary mid-September this year. The Green Party Leader Elizabeth May — who was excluded from the debate — resorted to Twitter. By tweeting her rebuttals and policy statements, May effectively broadened the scope of the debate. Her account actually had the most mentions, with 14,161!
For popularity and responsiveness, Conservatives pull ahead again. From a numbers-only perspective, Conservative Stephen Harper seems to cast the largest social media net.
It’s important to keep in mind that Harper built much of his following in his service as prime minister. Moreover, an analysis finds his most engaging tweets have been around events such as the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2014 Parliament Hill shooting and when he met an overall-clad Justin Bieber in 2012.
Another avenue I explored, and something I was quite interested in finding out, was whether political party’s websites were being shared and distributed online.
Here’s what I found:
NDP takes the cake on this one. Their website has been shared over 11,000 times just on Facebook alone. Sharing a political party’s URL helps indicate the volume of online traffic. Driving more people to their website helps inform users of what that candidate represents.
Summary of Findings
After reeling in all the data. I think it’s safe to say that all parties have their own strengths (and weaknesses) on social media.
- The Conservatives capture the largest audience size from a numerical standpoint
- The Liberals dominate in the amount of Facebook Likes and Youtube Subscribers
- The NDP capitalize on sharing their website through various social networks
- The Greens significantly lead in the number of Tweets posted
The last election had a voting turnout rate of a mere 61% – a poor representation of the country’s population.
Can social media and online initiatives help drive people to the polls? Especially millennials, the largest group absent from the previous election but the most frequent users of social media?
I think two important factors that will dictate this success are: education and public accountability. I came across these two voter initiative platforms that take into consideration both of these factors:
iSideWith is a website that brings the public up to speed by educating them on which political leaders support what causes. So far, more than 1.5 million Canadians have used this website to find their candidate match, and this number continues to rise rapidly.
What is powerful about this quiz is the word of mouth it generates. Once your results are generated, you have the opportunity to join in on discussions and share your results on your social media accounts.
But educating is only part of the battle in getting people to vote.
The Pledge to Vote
CBC News and Google have co-created Pledge to Vote, a tool that encourages Canadians to publicly commit in advance to voting in the upcoming election, by showing why they will be casting a ballot. And equally as important, users can share their commitment on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms by using #PledgeToVote to encourage their friends, family and social networks to head to the polls as well.
Everyone’s vote does matter! It makes a difference. So, go take the political quiz, register to vote, and make the pledge online. Leverage the power of social media and share your voice on the quest for a better Canada.
Keep up-to-date and follow the election race @PollWatchCanada.