Tim Hudak has the most engaged Facebook fans. Kathleen Wynne has about 20,000 more Twitter followers than her nearest political rival. Andrea Horwath updates her Facebook page the most often.
But despite these successes, Ontario’s political leaders appear to be missing social media marketing opportunities while on the campaign trail.
The Star compiled data on the three main leaders leading up to and including the first days of the campaign to determine how they stack up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and elsewhere.
While there are clear differences as far as how many potential voters are hearing and interacting with party messages, none of the three leaders appear to be taking full advantage of their social media footprints leading up to the June 12 Ontario election .
“It kills me that there’s so much opportunity for them to do a better job (on social media) and they’re not,” says Bhupesh Shah, co-ordinator of Seneca College’s Social Media graduate certificate.
Compared to social media savvy politicians like Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi or U.S. President Barack Obama, the major Ontario party leaders aren’t as sophisticated, Shah says.
“These three guys don’t have a clue, relatively speaking.”
None of the candidates are particularly active on YouTube, which Shah says is a perfect platform for air-time-hungry candidates. YouTube has been embraced by many politicians who see the advantages of an interruption-free way to speak directly to would-be voters.
And while the leaders are focused on spreading the word about their policies and campaign promises, they are missing the chance to share their human side, Shah says. The leaders could be harnessing memes and expressing a sense of humour with playful, off-the-cuff videos to show their human side and endear them to supporters, he suggests.
Interactivity is also an issue for all three candidates. The data shows there is a lot of one-way broadcasting of messages and photos without replying to the public.
Overall, Wynne is winning the social media fight, Shah says, while Hudak has a long way to catch up in terms of social media skills. Wynne has been the most consistent about using link shortener services such as bit.ly, which allow leaders to track how many times the links to their websites are being clicked. Wynne has also joined the conversation around trending topics not necessarily related to politics, such as the #bringbackourgirls social media campaign to rescue schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram Islamist group.
Horwath falls somewhere in between Wynne and Hudak, but her team is hoping a newly revamped website modelled after Obama’s successful online strategies will help. The website incorporates Facebook and other social media channels and NDP communications director Jen Hassum told the Canadian Press that the party hopes the new platform will help translate social media engagement into votes.
Here is a closer look at how each party is doing on various social media sites:
Hudak is winning the Facebook game — at least when it comes to the number of overall page likes and the rate of engagement (which is a percentage of total comments, shares, clicks and likes) that each of his posts garner. This is despite the fact that Hudak has posted the least out of the three main leaders in the past two months. According to information from analysis service Simply Measured, he has only updated his Facebook page 37 times between March 7 and May 12, compared to 61 updates from Horwath.
But when it comes to buzz around the candidate, which factors in other interactions, such as tagging someone in a photo or status update, posting a message on a wall or RSVPing to an event, Wynne is far ahead, with on average 74,000 people “talking” about her on Facebook in recent months. However, a look at the data shows not all the talk is positive, Shah notes. “Because she’s the incumbent, more people have more to talk about.” Any distaste with her performance is fresher in the minds of Facebook users.
Don’t expect any of the candidates to respond to messages or comments; the response rate for all three leaders was a whopping zero.
@Kathleen_Wynne is leading in terms of Twitter followers and is closing in on 50,000 followers as of mid-May, while @TimHudak and @AndreaHorwath are neck and neck with about 29,000 and 28,000 followers respectively. Wynne is on track to gather more than 2,500 followers this month, based on data collected from Sysomos, a leader in social analytics and intelligence.
All three candidates have a higher percentage of male followers, but Hudak showed the greatest disparity, with a 70/30 split along gender lines, according to Sysomos data. Overall, Horwath and Wynne show a higher level of sophistication by tweeting in both French and English and by using lists to group candidates, stakeholders and other accounts by theme. Wynne is more likely to interact with the public by mentioning and replying to tweets and to “favourite” tweets from the public.
The photo-sharing site Instagram has exploded in popularity since the last provincial election and its users tend to be younger — which presents an excellent opportunity for the party leaders to appeal to new voters. However, none of the candidates have a significant following yet.
Kathleen Wynne has been posting photos and the occasional 15-second video since taking office. She has ramped up postings to one or two a day to her more than 600 followers.
Andrea Horwath started an Instagram account in early May and after about a week has amassed around 60 followers.
Neither Tim Hudak nor the provincial PC party appear to have a presence on Instagram, but Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner seems to be using the GreenPartyofOntario account to occasionally post from the campaign trail.
Tim Hudak’s derailed TTC photo op over the weekend was a social media PR failure not only because he failed to get permission to film on the subway, but also because he used a traditional crew rather than smartphones to record the moment, says Shah. Smartphones would have allowed him to upload photos and video and share quickly across social networks — possibly without attracting the attention of authorities, notes Shah, who points out that people post selfies on the TTC all the time.
For the Liberals, a few embarrassing social media situations have come to light recently in which three candidates have made sexist remarks on their own social media accounts.
- With files from The Canadian Press