Surrey and Delta civic election candidates turn to Facebook, Twitter

Experts say social media campaigns only successful if the public is engaged.

During the coming civic election campaign, most candidates will be using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as tools for engaging the public and raising funds for their campaigns.

How effective they will be boils down to how well candidates use the new media.

One candidate for the Surrey Board of Education is already utilizing the tools for fundraising.

Paul Hillsdon sent out invitations by Facebook and other social media asking for donations to his campaign for school board.

In the post, he describes at length his purpose for running for school board and notes he’ll need capital to do it. He states he’s aiming to raise $5,000 for his campaign.

That figure will give Hillsdon the money needed to run an average campaign, according to figures from the 2008 run for school board.

Hillsdon also has a significant web presence through his blogs, which he has been using to publish opinion pieces.

Hillsdon said Wednesday he’s had a few donations through the online request, but said he’s into “brand new territory.”

The contributions coming in are small, but it’s early going yet, he noted.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said her Surrey First team will be using social media to “get the word out” and engage some voters. She also said Surrey First will be doing some fundraising through social media during the approach to the Nov. 19 election.

Social media earned its place in the political campaigns in Barack Obama’s successful run for U.S. president in 2008.

It was subsequently used in the Toronto municipal elections of 2010 and the Canadian federal elections of 2011.

It’s broadly felt that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s successful run in 2010 was greatly helped with his use of social media.

Mia Pearson is a co-founder of North Strategic, a firm out of Toronto specializing in the use of social media.

She’s been watching how it has evolved in politics for the past four years, prior to Obama’s success with it.

She told The Leader in an interview Thursday the tools can be extremely effective, but only if their use is well-considered.

If a candidate plans to just “get the word out” with Twitter or Facebook, they will be sorely disappointed, she said.

“I think it’s effective if they’re using it in a way that’s listening to the community, where the community is responding and you create a discussion online, “ Pearson said. “If you look at Facebook and Twitter as a broadcast medium, you’re basically wasting your time.”

It becomes extremely effective, particularly on Facebook, where politicians create a dialogue with users and engage people in important discussions.

“It’s called social media because it needs to be social,” Pearson said.

Twitter is great for “crowd sourcing,” in which politicians announce they will be at an event talking about certain issues, Pearson said, while Facebook is where the dialogue with users will occur and where a real community is built.

Pearson said there’s a huge number of people using social media, particularly in Canada.

“Canadians are the number-one users of Facebook in the world,” Pearson said. “It’s growing among moms and also the older demographic, the sort of 65-plus.”

She also noted the use of social media is not just a blip on the political landscape. It’s here to stay.


Watch for Leader coverage of the 2011 civic campaigns and elections on Twitter, Facebook and through live interactive chats.

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