“The medium is the message.”
– Marshall McLuhan, Canadian professor and philosopher.
In these days of social media, mainstream media and online only media, anyone seeking public office could spend a lot of their time tending to the various platforms – not to mention their own campaign websites and blogs – instead of getting to the meat-and-potatoes work of knocking on doors.
Any successful politician will tell you it is the gruelling, soul-killing, trudging from address to address that really wins campaigns. Combined, of course, with some smart main roadway sign placements and strategic media ad buys.
It’s also key to respond to reporters’ calls quickly to capitalize – some candidates will have to handle a lot of inquiries, while others will receive some – and not to shoot oneself in one’s foot with a campaign-killing quote in a hosted public debate.
But social media can’t be ignored. Apart from being a valuable public relations tool, it allows candidates to reach an audience in an age where people who consume social media often aren’t home when you come knocking and most certainly won’t have a land line for you to call.
Painting with a wide brush, high-volume social media consumers are often not necessarily all that engaged in politics but an attractive tweet or post could catch their eye. And vote.
A candidate needs to know how to use each medium properly. Inept treatment of various platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the key ones – will show a failure to respect the medium. That in itself will deliver a strong message that a person does not care about, or understand the medium that has been embraced by them and their peers.
Looking at the four candidates for mayor, there are some who appear to be heeding McLuhan’s message, while others are thumbing their noses at his theory.
Here’s how the four mayoral candidates, in alphabetical order, are using social media:
Facebook: Coun. Rebecca Alty has been Facebooking for the election since July. The professional communicator has been paying to promote some posts. She also has a personal page, with plenty of info about her life and interests.
Coun. Adrian Bell’s page is the same he’s been using for some time. The realtor’s page is loaded with policy and he doesn’t shy away from sharing his personal life. He has paid for one promoted post as of mid-week.
Motorcycle riding instructor Jerald Sibbeston’s page is his personal one he has used forever. It’s clear from it he is a motorcycle enthusiast and also enjoys heavy metal music. In one post, he asks for plywood board donations so he can make signs.
This quote from last Saturday during the campaign period struck me as interesting: “Lazy at home day, reading, gaming, FBing, thinking, feeling a bit of the weight, a lot of people have liked my posts and I am speechless … Well, not actually speechless … That would be a bad thing in my situation …”
Bar owner Bob Stewart has extended his Libertarian philosophy to Facebook. He has a personal page with practically zero activity showing on it. Not gonna bow to that authority, are you?
Twitter: Alty (@r_alty) joined in July 2009. In that time, she has amassed 2,400 tweets and has almost 1,300 followers. She follows a lot of Liberal Party types, plus some from the NDP. Oddly, one of her early follows was for Conservative PM Stephen Harper. Hmm.
Bell (@adriandbell) joined in September 2010. Some 975 tweets and has 1,110 followers. He follows a lot of urban planning/urban studies accounts. Not many political folks, so his leanings aren’t clear.
Sibbeston (@JeraldSibb) joined July 2014. He has made a measly 20 tweets and has 12 followers, including former senator Nick Sibbeston, his father.
Bob Stewart (@NWTlibertarian) hasn’t touched his page with 86 tweets and 85 followers since the summer of 2016. ‘Nuff said.
Instagram doesn’t capture a lot of my time. And none of the four mayoral candidates seem to really be using it for that either.
So who respects social media as a medium the most? Kind of a toss-up between Alty and Bell. Which is how, at the moment, I would answer the following question: So who is going to be our next mayor?
BEFORE I GO:
The Yellowknifer municipal election webpage will launch Monday. It will be outside of our paywall, as we want to ensure all the information we collect on candidates will be available to all voters in the city.
On it will be a series of five-minute videos journalist Dylan Short and managing editor Mike Bryant have been producing in recent days in our lavish facilities also known as our boardroom.
In addition, political reporter Sidney Cohen has been pulling together profiles of all the mayoral and city council candidates for the site.
On that page will also be stories from all reporters we have done and will do on the election.
We will also do a few pop polls from now until election day, Oct. 15. Yes, we know our polls aren’t scientific, but they can be an interesting feature.
Information about those running for school trustee will also be on our election webpage. That is being compiled by education reporter Simon Whitehouse.