As we watch the Ontario election unfold, one of the interesting footnotes is the battle on social media. According to reports like this one, Tim Hudak and his Million Jobs Plan are leading the discussion on Twitter by a wide margin. However, the report goes on to say that much of the sentiment (which is a tough metric to measure, but I digress), is negative. Meaning, people are talking about the Ontario PCs and its Leader, but not in a good way.
When faced with these stats, the default position of observers seems to be that this is just the way of the Internet: Conservatives are older, so they are just going to have to get used to being outnumbered online, which is the domain of the younger, hipper crowd. From Ipsos Reid President of Canadian Public Affairs Mike Colledge: “Twitter use and online discussions of public policy and political issues skew heavily toward younger and higher educated Canadians so it remains to be seen how the social media debate will play out come election day.”
While that may be true, at least for the moment, the response from those on the right so far is to cede the battleground to their opponents and concentrate their efforts elsewhere. That to me is the surest way to ensure that things always stay the same.
The fact of the matter is that armies are recruited and trained, not conjured. They don’t spontaneously appear and organize into columns. Each person needs to be sought out and trained properly in order to be effective. That is what needs to be happening – years before Election Day. Some might ask why is this a smart use of resources. I have a few reasons:
- Momentum: Just like signs on a lawn, tweets don’t vote. But they provide a concrete symbol of something difficult to quantify: momentum. It bolsters the troops are reinforces the fact that your side is winning. The Ipsos report above could have been about how Conservatives control the chatter online. Earned media.
- Reach: In many cases, Tweets and posts greatly extend how far your message is disseminated. The deeper your network, the further your message is spread – at little to no cost.
- Trends: News on the Internet this morning is often news on TV that night. A large group of followers can help to dictate what is being discussed, while shaping the wider debate.
According to one survey, Twitter does indeed skew to the left. But there is an eight percent difference – something that could change with a concentrated effort to get more on the right involved early, quipping them with the right tools and support to be successful in spreading the word.
Can it work? One only needs to look at the Congressional Republicans in the US, who by most measures has a dominating Twitter presence.
As long is there a will to win the battleground, it can be.