If two of the most current political campaigns to take place in Canada are any indication, social media efforts in a political context still aren’t reaching their full potential in this country.
Both the recently concluded NDP leadership race and the Alberta provincial election that got underway this week illustrate that while social media continues to enjoy a prominent role in campaigning, there isn't a lot of innovation.
Leadership races are always interesting, as there are multiple competing teams and very scarce resources. Sounds like a hackathon. Unfortunately, rather than bring out creativity, each of the campaigns stuck to safe and pedestrian approaches to social media: Website? Check. Facebook page? Check. Twitter account? Check. Flickr feed? Check. Yawn.
While the #ndpldr Twitter hashtag saw a lot of activity leading up to and during last weekend's convention which saw Thomas Mulcair elected Leader of the Opposition, there was very little to indicate that campaigns went beyond broadcast mode: pushing messages into multiple social channels.
Meanwhile in Alberta, the two leading parties – the incumbent Progressive Conservatives and the upstart Wildrose Alliance – are following a similarly safe path. The online presence of both parties indicate there were very little resources invested in social media or mobilizing support online. Like the NDP candidates, the provincial parties are focused on a wide broadcast message, rather than engagement and activating supporters/visitors.
If I were to offer advice to any of the parties, I would tell them to focus on: capturing data wherever possible; using all channels to funnel potential supporters to make donations and connect with local campaigns; offering real ways for supporters at home to become involved in the campaign, even incrementally.
Hopefully, these campaigns will evolve and deeply integrate social media to maximize its potential in the future.