During my presentation to Social Media Breakfast Ottawa, yesterday, I was asked about the role of social media in Naheed Nenshi‘s mayoral victory in Calgary. My research has been limited and I often feel I need to speak to the source to properly form my opinion of “groundbreaking case studies” — something I started to pursue a few days ago (I’ll keep you posted).

My opinion on the role of social media in Mr. Nenshi’s victory was not completely formed so I offered to provide a follow-up on my blog. I did say social media didn’t elect Naheed Nenshi despite what the media might have you otherwise believe. However, it did play an important role in the campaign suggesting the campaign team knew that successful use of social media must achieve three important goals:

  • keep supporters informed so they can do more to help the campaign
  • convert (or help convert) other voters
  • get people out to vote

I had some interesting conversations following my talk and have done some more research since. Here is what I have learned that supports points that were part of my presentation.

Integration. Traditional and digital communication and activities were weaved together from the beginning of the campaign. The two were not mutually exclusive and neither an afterthought to the other.

Engagement. Campaign director Chima Nkemdirim wanted the campaign to be hyper-engaged. According to reports, Mr. Nenshi did all his own Tweeting including answering questions posed to him on Twitter. When the load became overwhelming, volunteers pitched in using their own Twitter accounts to provide links to answers. It wasn’t all about digital engagement, though. Among the many ways Nenshi connected with the public were coffee parties in supporters’ homes.

Signage. I’ve been a bit focused on the noticeable decline in campaign lawn signs and the fact campaigns haven’t replaced them in the digital world. According to one conversation I had, Nenshi supporters were encouraged to (and did) post Tweets and status messages declaring their support for Naheed Nenshi. While more transient than “Twibbons”, avatars, badges, banners, etc… those messages would definitely qualify as digital lawn signs, reaching more eyeballs than a variety of official social media accounts and groups.

Involvement. Organizationally, it seems the campaign was run as a policy centre which empowered supporters and volunteers to contribute and act on their own creative ideas to achieve campaign goals.

Vote. Not only did the Nenshi camp manage to convert voters, it played a significant role in getting people out to vote. One tactic was the clever Purple Dawn campaign which involved posting purple signs (and chalk messages) with polling station information and a reminder to get out to vote on the morning of the election.