Election campaign is over but use of social media should continue: experts

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

During the recent election campaign, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube became primary tools for federal MPs and candidates to engage the electorate.

Social media experts say Members of Parliament need to continue using social media even though the campaign is over.

"(We) encourage MPs to tweet between elections for sure,"  says Trevor May of Politwitter.ca.

"Keeping their twitter account active will allow them to build up a larger following over time, so when there is another election (social media) is more powerful."

Politwitter.ca keeps track of MPs' tweeting habits. According to its website, 479 candidates tweeted a total 23,049 times over the course of the 38-day campaign. Since the campaign, however, the number of tweets has diminished considerably.

"(There were) 2,321 tweets by MPs since May 3, 2011," said May. There were 5,128 tweets the previous week."

It seems parliamentarians aren't heeding May's advice.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, known as a parliamentary pioneer when it comes to using social media, published an article in 2010 in the Parliamentarian giving online advice to her fellow MPs.

"If we can use this technology to develop more timely and honest relationships between citizens and their representatives," she wrote, "we can look forward to a more robust democracy in which citizens feel that their representatives are more relevant and responsive."

In her report, Bennett lists several "between election" social media strategies:

Websites:

Bennett notes great websites have people who come often and stay to view thoughtful  and current content. She writes websites should allow MPs to quickly clarify their position or refute misinformation.  Websites, she says, should also include links to YouTube, Flikr, Facebook and Twitter.

Online Chats:

Bennett conducts online chats on her Facebook page every Sunday at 9 p.m. EST and allows anybody to participate and ask her questions.

Twitter:

Bennett tells MPs they should use Twitter as a means to "reflect on a fast-breaking issue, or retweet an insight, or draw attention to an important article or give the URL for the conference you are attending.

She adds, "MPs (need to) understand that no one really wants to know what you think of the weather today or that you've gone for yet another run."

Facebook:

Bennett encourages fellow MPs to use Facebook to have discussions on policy matters or for organizing groups or "movements" such as the "Canadians Against Prorogation of Parliament" page that consisted of more than 200,000 people.

(CP Photo)