Bigger and smaller than you might think, is the couched answer that seems to keep popping up over and over. Unfortunately, all the metrics in the world touting this last Canadian Federal election as the ‘social media’ election, simply cannot compare with the actual narrative of the campaign. For any media insider, it was clear that this was simply an election where the electorate wanted change at any cost. Yet although that was seemingly the outcome, did social media help; absolutely.
The Lead Up
Social media is not the only piece of this amazingly complex pie however. The first piece is that parties across the country are relying more on big data. Big data refers to the voter engagement software that started with Harper’s Conservatives way back in the early 2000’s. It was this system that enabled the party to collect information on voters in swing ridings and help the party micro-target them to their advantage and ultimately 10 years in government.
Yet data on its own cannot make this type of effect by itself anymore. Simply because now all parties are ‘micro-targeting’ in order to buy votes and it’s not as effective anymore. Voters simply forget who promised what on the doorstep and turn instead to friends, family, news outlets and social media to reaffirm their voting behaviour before they vote.
Yet in this last election, Canadians participated more than probably any election in the past online through social media. Did it swing the election? Probably not, but again that may have had more to do with voting cycles. The real test will come in future elections when parties learn from the effectiveness of the Liberal social media usage in this election. Lastly, new data platforms from the US campaign that won for Obama are being used here in Canada and apparently enable a much better tracking of voter information across all sources including social media than in the past.
The Liberal Social Media Success
However, there are takeaways from this campaign that prove the effect that social media is having on elections. It is allowing a more direct participation by voters. The Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau seemed to corner the market on using social media effectively during this campaign. With an aggregate impact more than double their rivals, this tool definitely had an impact on the amount of their success.
They used social media to better engage their voter base than the other two parties combined. From engaging Facebook posts that provided a much larger response in shares and likes to a much larger Twitter following with real back and forth engagement. What does all this amount to? It may have provided a ‘real’ picture for voters of Justin Trudeau who were looking, that voided the Conservative negative ad campaign of “He’s Just Not Ready”. When seen in light of the social media posts, it is hard not see how effective social media can be.
In the end result, social media makes up a smaller portion of the overall electorates decision making resource than might be expected in today’s online driven world, but it can definitely make a positive impact which can be seen by its positive reinforcement in Obama and Trudeau’s campaigns.