While social media has been around in elections since 2008, this is the first election that it will play an extremely important role. You can see it by the number of articles speaking to the use of social media – which leader has the most Twitter followers, who’s most effective on Facebook, campaign slogans that become hashtags and the analytics surrounding that, and the list goes on.
You’ve read in my blogs before that the most important activity of all during a campaign is door knocking (and calling, although door knocking is more effective). So what role does social media play and how do you balance the two? The best rule of thumb is that if you need to make a choice between campaign activity that results in tangible information and social media, the choice is always activity that garners results. The argument can be made that social media may play a role in getting votes, but unless you have a concrete evaluation method where you can definitely prove that it is having an effect (which we do not have as of yet), door knocking wins every time.
The benefit of social media is helping a campaign gain or maintain momentum. Justin Trudeau has 708,000 followers on Twitter compared to Thomas Mulcair’s 155,000. If thousands of people are listening to what you have to say, then their friends and followers should probably listen as well. The other benefit (which is more anecdotal than research supported) is that the more people you have engaged with your brand, the more likely they are to support you. Stands to reason that if they vote they are more likely to vote for you. Of course, there are people out there who follow politicians of varying political stripes just to keep up to date on what is being said, however I feel a majority of people who follow a politician do so because they are genuinely interested in what they have to say. The trick is to get that online action into offline results.
In the end, you won’t get an argument for anyone worth their (political) salt saying that efforts should focus solely on social media. But there are is a place for social media – once the door knocking is done. Again, @GoKnockDoors has the last word on this subject.