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The Role of Social Media in this election

September 3, 2010

Social media or the web 2.0 is a relatively new player to the game of campaigning in this municipal election. Although it role has yet to be defined in this election, its presence should be not overlooked or ignored.

Cleo spent months and months pleading for a Facebook and Twitter account. Clearly, it took something as important as running for mayor for her humans to justify her request. As a result of Cleo’s web 2.0 presence, Cleo’s campaign team has been making some striking observations about the use of social media.

Cleo’s campaign is centered on social media. Blogging, Twitter and Facebook allow Cleo to make connections and have conversations that would be highly improbable in 2006. In less than 2 weeks, Cleo has nearly 200 friends on Facebook, 80 followers on Twitter and approximately 300 tweets. In addition to this, every tweet, blog comment, and Facebook status is answered in a genuine and timely fashion. As a result, Cleo has had the absolute privilege of participating in a dialogue about a multitude of issues that Ottawans are fiercely passionate about.

Can you think of another context in which this level of engagement could occur? We certainly can’t! Cleo’s team is absolutely gobsmacked by the conversations and passion displayed by some truly stellar peeps. We are left to wonder how Jane Jacobs would have used social media with her transformational work in neighbourhoods and urban areas.

Looking at another candidate for mayor who has some experience in the mayoral capacity, at the time of writing this blog, said candidate had 159 followers and has 19 tweets after almost two weeks on Twitter. How did Cleo react to this level of participation? The only way she could – with the Puggy head tilt of confusion!

Why the puggy head tilt of confusion?

Cleo cannot wrap her wee puggy head around framing 19 tweets as a success. That’s just not keeping up with the pace of twitter. Cleo lacks opposable thumbs and is quickly approaching 300 tweets in more or less the same timeframe. It’s not as though this candidate was out shaking paws and installing lawn signs now was it?

So what’s the solution? Cleo is pretty smitten with a web 2.0 innovator named Gary Vaynerchuk. He gave the keynote address at the South By South West Interactive conference this year, and one of his messages stuck with Cleo.

At about the 4 minute mark, Gary talks about how consumers have grown accustomed to be treating like crap. He goes on to say that when a company does give a Pug about its consumers the way Zappos cares about customer services, we, as consumers go bananas! We like to think of Cleo’s campaign as Zappos.

To this end, we invite other mayoral candidates to remove the mirror that they have placed in between their social media campaigns and the general public. Mirrors reflect what you can already see and what you already know.

Social media (when done right) is premised upon interaction, engagement and building networks. You will learn more about the citizens, the neighbourhoods, the issues, and the city than you could ever plan for. This level of participation comes with a risk as it happens in real time and is permanent. Tweets can’t be undone. But if you are willing to balance that level of risk with the opportunity for engagement and individual connection, then we will be talking about social media as a game changer.

It’s not often that Cleo gets this philosophical about much else besides snuggling, but this is her city and her home that we are talking about and how we, as its citizens, want city leaders to shape the city. It begs the question, if a Pug can meaningfully engage and converse why is it the current mayor cannot or will not do the same? How can we expect our current mayor to unite council when he cannot commit to engaging with concerned citizens in 140 characters of less?

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