Candidates put ‘Net to the test

This election is arguably the first time social media has been all but omnipresent in local politics.

This election is arguably the first time social media has been all but omnipresent in local politics.

In Kelowna’s 2008 municipal election, many of the platforms utilized today were just for catching up with friends.

Today nearly all candidates have been tweeting their political platitudes and getting Facebook friendly, either directly to their online followers or through the hashtag  #kelownavotes.

Even political forums have been augmented by those with a heightened understanding of the way of the web.

Among their ranks is Kyle Harms, a UBC Okanagan student behind events like the Vote Mob which, organized through social media, aimed at getting young people involved in the political process during the last federal election.

This election, he’s still paying attention to the issues and trying to get his peers involved, so he took it upon himself to Tweet-out a Tuesday night debate.

The effort made it possible for the demographic that’s loath to go to political forums to follow the event.

“I think it went pretty well…especially because it was people from the younger generation taking part,” said Harms.

Although he’s yet to scrutinize the stats, he believes there were 20 to 25 people who were following his live blog of the forum and around six others retweeting and commenting on what was happening.

It may not be the thousands some elections could boast, but Harms said it’s a good start.

“Social media is still not a big aspect of municipal politics,” said Harms, explaining the lack of attention to the communication medium is quite pronounced locally.

“You see Barrack Obama can attract millions around the world to his Twitter, and our candidates have a couple hundred, at best…You know there are thousands of people using Facebook in Kelowna, so it makes you wonder how you can attract them.”

Although candidates may not be getting all they hoped to out of their social media sites, Harms said they’ve done a good job building websites and using social media to lure voters to learn more about them.

As for mayoralty candidates, Harms said he believes both Sharon Shepherd and Walter Gray have done well with their web endeavours. Both put forward great websites and Shepherd’s, in particular, has “cool features that appeal to web-friendly people,” said Harms.

On the social media front, Harms figures they both deserve accolades, especially when you consider they’re using a medium that isn’t exactly aimed at their demographic.

“Walter Gray is doing quite well considering the age range he has following him,” he said of the 71-year-old candidate.

As for the rest of the candidates, the Capital News did its own impromptu survey two days running, to see who was paying attention in the Twitter-verse, and it turned out there are a handful of prolific Tweeters.

Couns. Kevin Craig and Michele Rule have been on top of their social media accounts for years, dispersing brief notes about local politics and their lives in general.

Rule answered two random Tweets, noting, “I’m often hanging out on Twitter & FB between meetings. (Social Media) is always important as communication/conversation tool #KelownaVotes.”

Craig wrote, “I’m on Twitter, and have been actively using it to engage during my two years on Council. #kelownavotes.”

Others who responded to the random query were council candidates Dayleen Van Ryswyk, Mark Thompson (who’s also running for school board) and Scott Ross.

Larry Gray, who’s running for school board, also responded, noting that while he’s using the medium, the jury is out on its effectiveness. “It’s a great way for the candidates to talk to each other…not sure how effective Twitter has been,” he wrote.

To follow the social media leg of this election, go to Twitter and use the hashtag #kelownavotes.

Or go to Kelowna.ca, and find the candidates page to link up to their individual websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

 

 

kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com