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January 20, 2006

Election 2006 and Social Media - The Liberals

Be sure to check out all five articles in this series:

Finally we review the Liberal Party of Canada and its use of social media. As the current party in power but with a minority government (and a scandalized one at that), they have a unique challenge in getting their message out to a jaded and weary Canadian public. Will they take advantage of social media to ensure that their support is shored-up and ready for the election? Or will they see their ruling party status as sufficient and ignore the power of the digital conversation?

Ndpiconzoomlj OK, before we even get to the Liberals, hot off the press, the NDP has blog badges and MSN icons! These were not there a couple of days ago. And then my NDP article was published. Who says one vote, one voice in the wilderness, doesn’t make a difference? Right, on to the Liberals …

Lib_askblogboy The Liberals feature a blog on their national site; it’s not by Paul Martin, but rather by his chief speechwriter, Scott Feschuk.  This is a great choice; Feschuk is much more likely to be able to maximize, on behalf of the Liberals, the immediate and personal nature of a blog.  The writing is edgy (as is the choice for the photo promoting the blog), and not policy-laden.  It is disappointing, however, that a reader can’t leave comments but must email them to Scott.  Scott does respond to emails in the blog, not individually but in response to a central comment theme.  I am surprised that comments are not allowed; how is it that the Bloc doesn’t fear the risk that the other major parties do?  Scott’s blog does have an RSS feed, though it only syndicates the title of each post.  In a blog that doesn’t use advertising to generate revenue and therefore doesn’t have to drive people back to the site, I find this a little disappointing.

Lib_poli101 I also reviewed Liberal individual candidates’ websites for blogs or other social media.  A large percentage of Liberals candidates have websites which is great, but they are generally static and devoid of any social media.  I only found one Liberal candidate blog; they are very difficult to find.  Liblogs, an independent site that aggregates Liberal-minded blogs, doesn’t distinguish if any of their listed sites are actual candidates.

Almost all parties have an affiliated Youth website where they try to appeal to younger voters and will often try out edgier marketing tactics.  The Liberals are no exception.  They have the Young Liberals of Canada site where young party members can sign up for text messages, get the Liberal take on policies that are important to them and, more recently, they can get election campaign postcards.  But the weird thing is that these postcards are PDFs.  PDFs?  Seriously, if you’re going to try to appeal to a younger audience, you don’t want to give them a PDF.  Make it viral, make it interactive, make it sendable cell phone wallpaper (oh, note to the Bloc, next time, please turn your kicky theme into a ring for my cell phone!).  But don’t expect anyone under 30 to forward a PDF – even if the content is funny.

And while we’re talking about audience expectations not aligning with marketing’s bright ideas, who thinks that people really want a picture of the Prime Minister on their desktop?  That’s right, the Liberals.  You can have Mr. Martin reading a story to kids, looking authoritative at the UN climate change conference, inspecting softwood lumber plants or rallying with Buzz Hargrove.  I would love to know their download stats on these.

In their Press Room, the Liberals offer an integrated RSS feed of news articles, speeches, and press releases.  Very handy for citizens and journalists trying to keep up.  The Liberals also have extensive audio and video content on their site, but do not offer a feed of any of it.  You can also sign up for an e-newsletter.  The Liberals have an easy to use event calendar, allowing constituents to connect with them offline, but you can’t view future dates, only today’s date and past dates.  Understandable, but unfortunate.

So, where do the Liberals end up?  Well, if this were Election Day and social media the vote, the Liberals wouldn’t win (though the concession blog content would be hilarious if Scott were writing it).  They have a good base to build on, but need to deliver in a number of key areas.  I’d say it would be a Bloc/Conservative coalition, though with those sexy new blog badges, the NDP can’t be ruled out.

So, that’s the end of my series.  Our political parties have only begun to scratch the surface in using social media—they need to take a cue from a few enterprising candidates across the parties who are blogging, podcasting and connecting with their constitutents.  Social media is also an excellent way for parties to connect with niche groups that focus around single plank issues within a larger party platform. Similarly, it is a great way for marketers to connect with niche groups who may only use one specific product from a larger product line or who have a specialised use of a product.

As a bonus, here are three additional election links that I recommend.  First, Hillwatch.com, a government relations firm, has released their report on election websites.  Entitled Still Virtually Lawn Signs: Benchmarking Canadian Political Web Sites During the 2006 Election, it makes some really interesting comparisons between US, UK and Canadian sites.  The emphasis is on the UK this year; they’re doing some great things with social media.  Secondly, BlogsCanada’s Canadian Political Index provides a great interface and links into Canadian political and advocacy sites.  It seems to be the most comprehensive, so if you’re looking for more info, check here first.  Finally, PCWorld.ca has an article Election 2006: Canada’s Digital Campaign that covers the impact of a number of technologies on the current campaign.

Oh, and finally, on Monday, don’t forget to vote !


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