It’s raining in Ottawa right now. Which makes it a crummy day to be on the campaign trail and a good day to be inside doing election analysis. I’ve been examining trends in the online discussion over the first two weeks of the election. It’s interesting to see what’s being talked about and where. I plan to write something up and publish it tomorrow.

This post, though, looks at how candidates in the current federal election can improve their use of social media. Specifically, I’m looking at my own riding, Ottawa Centre. The danger of a post like this is that it will sound negative. It’s not meant to be. My goal is to show where social media is being used well and where candidates and their campaigns are missing the mark.

My approach was moderately scientific. I considered each candidate’s website to be their digital campaign headquarters and a variety of social media channels as outposts meant to engage people and drive them to the hub — the website. Meanwhile, the website should aggregate a majority of content to connect the pieces of the candidate’s digital ecosystem. I noted and compared the findings.

For this post I considered three primary criteria:

  • Social media channel selection and use
  • Connectedness of digital campaign
  • Frequency of content updates

In future makeovers I’ll consider things like creativity and originality of content, level of engagement and other criteria.

Certain elements are common to all campaigns. The central websites are all within the .ca (Canadian) extension of the Internet and provide one-click capabilities to volunteer, donate and request a lawn sign. Also, none of the candidates are producing audio podcasts.

In alphabetical order…

SCOTT BRADLEY (LIBERAL)

Most of what a curious constituent needs is available by glance on Scott’s web page. However, I was surprised search isn’t integrated (it’s available as a link). All of his social media outposts are a click away, though getting to his Twitter account is a two-click process from an embedded window which scrolls recent tweets. Scott is great at publishing authentic video content (and a few more “stiff” videos) on a regular basis. His energy comes across in the videos and his tweets. It probably helps that he’s a musician with plenty of stage experience. This means his channels are kept active with fresh content — a good thing. Scott keeps his Facebook Fan Page updated. His posts get some likes though very few comments.

Digital makeover: Photos in Scott’s Flickr stream have no titles, descriptions or tags. For bonus points, he can make the photos available under a Creative Commons license. His videos have titles though they lack good descriptions and more complete tags. His Flickr and YouTube profiles are incomplete, and his Flickr account lacks a photo and link to his website. His commitment to video is doing a good enough job to forgive the absence of a blog.

PAUL DEWAR (NDP, INCUMBENT)

Paul’s digital energy appears to be going into Twitter. While his air time on the service is limited (he is campaigning after all), he is both tweeting and responding to others. While some of his tweets are “on message” a recent response to a tweet about a defaced campaign sign was met with comment “looks funny.” Paul’s Facebook Fan Page updates enjoy regular likes and very few comments. However, he is providing updates and creating events.

Digital makeover: For starters, Paul’s webpage has too much Jack Layton and not enough Paul Dewar on it. Constituents who visit his site want to know about Paul and where he can be found in person and online. Like Scott, some of Paul’s social media profiles are incomplete. Of greater concern, his video channel is stagnant. He also has a pseudo-blog which could be used for some thought/opinion pieces and for sharing stories of the work he’s done with the community in his time as MP. Finally, the icon he’s using to link to his Flickr account is actually a modified Facebook icon.

JEN HUNTER (GREEN)

Of all the candidates, Jen has the most integrated online presence. Her site is built around her blog where she shares text and video updates from the campaign trail as well as videos (TED Talks) she recommends to site visitors. She’s the only one who’s incorporated the ability for people to easily share content on her website. Her videos are titled and have complete descriptions. Given her active use of video and the blog, I suppose I can forgive the absence of a Flickr account (though I’m not sure why she doesn’t have one).

Digital makeover: Jen needs to integrate a search capability throughout her site. The way her Twitter stream is embedded into her site requires two clicks to actually get to her account. Finally, access to her calendar requires a click. I suggest having the three or five upcoming events highlighted on the site.

DAMIAN KONSTANTINAKOS (CONSERVATIVE)

Damian weathered a potentially dangerous storm early in week two when a fake Twitter account sought to destroy his candidacy. That’s about the most remarkable thing that happened relating to Damian’s digital presence.

Digital makeover: Damian needs to start at the core and move outward, His website has more to do with Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party than it does with him. Skimming through his site I gain very little insight into his position on issues that affect me and the community in which I live. His social media activities are very spotty and disconnected — there are no links to his Facebook Page or Twitter account, though digging into the site you can find links to the CPC’s online activities. His site has a photo gallery, though no videos nor does he have a YouTube channel. For a candidate in a historically centre-left riding, he’s doing very little to get his voice heard where people tend to look.

I may yet pick a few key ridings and do more digital makeovers during the campaign.