There are many words used to describe social media but the one word that truly relates to what sets it apart from all other medias is engagement. The opportunity to engage provides the optimal platform to establish a genuine, authentic, credible, human and highly influential presence.
Those involved with Barrack Obama’s social media campaign in 2008, which still stands as the most successful political endeavour to date, understood the power of social media and engagement. Almost half of all Americans were using the Internet and studies showed 28% said the Internet made them feel more personally connected to the campaign with 22% saying they would not be as involved without it according to a survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project. Further studies showed Obama with close to 400% more followers on both Facebook and MySpace, 240 times more followers on Twitter and over 400% more subscribers and over 900% more viewers on YouTube than McCain. Obama’s social media success was clearly reflective of the election results which is why Optimum PR and Dare Labs created The Social Election Experiment in an effort to forecast results for Canada’s federal election.
The social election results were based on the number of Facebook “likes” obtained by each party across the social web and showed the Liberals as the most well-“liked” party in the country, followed by the NDP and then the Conservatives with the Bloc and Green Party’s in fourth and fifth respectively. However, the final election numbers were clearly not reflected by the “likes” of Facebook as Canadians voted in a majority Conservative government. Although half the population of Canada has a Facebook account, it seems their vote was not reflected in Facebook Pages as shown by the over 60% of Canadians that voted, Canada Votes 2011.
Had the Liberal campaign involved a stronger social media initiative to engage voters, is it possible that voters would have felt more “personally connected” and cast their vote for the leader of the most “liked” party? Those assigned to closely follow the Liberal leader acknowledged him publicly as an open and receptive candidate in contrast to those comments describing the Conservative leader. Was the power of social media ignored? Was it simply a fear and smear campaign utilizing Television ads, the discontent surrounding a federal party that failed in representing a single province, a party appearing more disjointed than united, an aversion to change or the complete satisfaction with the current party that influenced the decision of almost 20 million voters? Is it possible that close to 40% of Canadians did not cast their vote in this Federal election because they felt disengaged? Could party leaders have utilized social media to engage voters and establish their unique personal brands to rival that of a long standing political presence easily securing the official opposition for the first time in the party’s history? What do you think?