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Social media fails to get out the vote for council candidates

Nov 30 2011

Facebook friends are fleeting, it seems, especially when it comes to fighting an election.

An analysis of Victoria council candidates' Facebook friends and Twitter tweets shows that the number of Facebook followers or Twitter updates had little correlation to direct votes.

"[In Victoria] the voter turnout was not reliant on the use of social media at all," said communications consultant Mat Wright.

Wright noted that some seeking election, such as council contender Aaron Hall, began the campaign with more than 1,018 Twitter followers, but ended with a total vote far less than other non-incumbents with less online activity, such as newly elected Lisa Helps.

"I think what happens is that these communications mediums are really just enlivening the base - people who are already engaged. It's not really reaching out beyond and enticing people into the conversation or getting them enthused to vote on an issue or for a party," he said.

Wright notes that much is at play in any campaign, including name recognition, door knocking, advertising and signs, mainstream media attention and all-candidates meetings.

Ben Isitt, Lisa Helps and Shellie Gudgeon, who unseated sitting councillors, were very active on social media, more so than incumbents John Luton and Lynn Hunter. But the third defeated incumbent, Coun. Phillippe Lucas, was active on social media.

The breakdown, including number of votes and use of website, Facebook and Twitter as compiled by Wright are as follows:

Re-elected (10,080 votes), Mayor Dean Fortin (incumbent), website, Facebook (2,249 friends), Twitter (1,503 followers, 277 updates); Second, Paul Brown (Open Victoria), (4,229 votes), website, Facebook (122 friends), Twitter (67 followers, 113 updates); Third, Steve Filipovic, (2,206 votes), website, Facebook (309 friends), Twitter (90 followers, 336 updates); Fourth, David Shebib (161 votes), Twitter (13 followers, 124 updates), Facebook (230 friends).

Elected to council: Geoff Young (incumbent), (8,940 votes), website, Facebook (friends info blocked); Charlayne Thornton-Joe (incumbent), (8,803 votes), website, Facebook (546 friends), Twitter (34 followers, 2 updates); Lisa Helps (new), (8,523 votes), website, Facebook (192 friends), Twitter (387 followers, 590 updates); Ben Isitt (new), (8,419 votes), website, Facebook (friends info blocked), Twitter (197 followers, 36 updates); Marianne Alto (incumbent), (7,493 votes), website, Facebook (388 friends), Twitter (416 followers, 116 updates); Pam Madoff (incumbent), (7,321 votes), website (webpage attached to Fortin's site); Shellie Gudgeon (new), (6,904 votes), website, Facebook (45 friends), Twitter (139 followers, 144 updates); Chris Coleman (incumbent), (6,793 votes), website.

Defeated incumbents: John Luton (incumbent), (6,343 votes), website, Facebook (518 friends); Lynn Hunter (incumbent), (6,101 votes), Facebook (689 Friends); Phillippe Lucas (incumbent), (5,719 votes), website, Facebook (115 friends), Twitter (385 followers, 314 updates).

Defeated contenders: Rose Henry, (4,866 votes), website, Facebook (785 friends); Suhki Lalli (Open Victoria), (3,993 votes), website, Facebook (3 friends), Twitter (1 follower, 3 updates); Linda McGrew (Open Victoria), (3,923 votes), website, Facebook (21 friends), Twitter (59 followers, 112 updates); Aaron Hall (Open Victoria), (2,777 votes), website, Facebook (298 friends), Twitter (1,018 followers, 6,205 updates); John Turner, (2,014 votes); Robin Kimpton, (1,519 votes), website, Facebook (11 friends); Saul Anderson, (1,055 votes), website; Sean Murray, (757 votes); John Valentine, (682 votes), website, Facebook (32 friends).

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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