Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Twitter? What Twitter?

When it comes to Canadian election strategy, Twitter is nowhere – at least in the Sept. 4 Fort Whyte byelection for the Manitoba legislature.

By the time the polls closed, the four candidates with Twitter accounts had tweeted a total of 61 times.

Make that three candidates. The Twitter account of the winner, Progressive Conservative Brian Pallister, has been inactive since July 9.

New Democrat Brandy Schmidt, who finished a distant third, led all tweeters with 43 entries.

Second-place Liberal Bob Axworthy tweeted seven times.

Donnie Benham of the Greens tweeted 11 times on his way to fourth place.

Legal difficulties prevented the fifth candidate, an independent, from using online resources.

My journalism students covering the contest tweeted more often that that at #fortwhytecc in the 90 minutes after the polls closed. But that was their assignment.

Yes, this was a byelection, held in the closing days of summer – two strikes against voter interest.

But you might think the candidates, while sweating their way through traditional canvassing at all those closed doors, would try to add a little social media to their campaign mix.

Perhaps it’s not that simple. Twitter looks breezy, but using it effectively takes time.

After I tweeted about how infrequently the candidates were tweeting, Benham tweeted in reply on Sept. 1:

“I'm trying Dunk! But some of us have day jobs. :-P”

I think the Greens could have benefited from a dose of social media. Benham proposed the only new idea of the campaign: members of the legislature who resign before their term expires should pay back the government part of their pensions.

Such a law would have caught Pallister and Hugh McFadyen, the former MLA for the area, who resigned in the middle of previous terms.

That kind of idea should appeal to new, young voters, who are likely to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Hey, Fort Whyte winner and losers: There’s no need to wait a couple of years for the next election to get tweeting.