Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s new Minister of Defence, has become something of an Internet sensation. I was supposed to be a guest of Power Play to talk about him this evening. Then President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL project became a more important story. Damn real news!

I didn’t want all of my great ideas and the charts I gathered to go to waste. So, I thought I’d write something quickly to “hold them up” and then get back to my day.

First of all, this is what it looks like when you get a moment of Internet fame.


Minister Sajjan became one of 30 newly-installed Liberal cabinet ministers two days ago. He was among several celebrated rookie MPs who made the cut, each with their own compelling backstory. Others who enjoyed particular attention include Catherine McKenna (Minister of Environment and Climate Change), Kent Hehr (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence) and Jody Wilson-Raybould (Minister of Justice, and attorney-general).

I believe Minister Sajjan edged out his cabinet-mates through the combination of three specific ingredients.

First, as a colleague noted to me, there is always a certain degree of energy associated with the success of identifiable social groups — particularly for milestone events. Canada’s defence minister has typically been a white male, some with any military experience. Kim Campbell is the exception to the male skew; she served in that role in 1993. Minister Sajjan is the first Sikh appointed to the position. And, he comes with on-the-ground police and military experience.



Second, he’s pretty good at social media. He publishes the kind of content that inspires people to respond and/or share with others, and he does so using a number of social media accounts (see more about that here). It helps that he retweets others a lot (42% of his Twitter activity between August 2 and October 20) and even replies once-in-a while (4%). He speaks, tweets, Facebooks, Instagrams and YouTubes from his heart, often with his bright (if sometimes digital) smile. All of that counts. Perhaps he’s read my book.


Minister Sajjan’s tweet style (Aug 2 – Oct 20). Analysis using Sysomos MAP.

The graph that follows, generated using 76insights, shows Minister Sajjan’s social media activity and its resonance spanning August 2 through November 6, inclusive. His 573 posts across four platforms attracted nearly 34K likes, favorites, retweets, shares and comments — an average of 59 interactions per “social object.” His three most-popular were:

  1. Nov 6 Facebook post after being named Minister of Defence (11.9K interactions)
  2. YouTube video published on October 8 (6.1K interactions)
  3. Nov 6 tweet after being named Minister of Defence (2.7K interactions)

Notice that his most popular involved a mix of engagement styles.


Minister Sajjan’s social media objects and their popularity (Aug 2 – Nov 6). Analysis using 76insights.

Third, he was called a “badass.” Nothing elevates your social media status quite like a great brand. Whatever brand Minister Sajjan had cultivated became irrelevant when Bloomberg reporter Scott Deveau knighted him a badass (a compliment of the highest order), possibly because of his larger than life MacGyver-meets-B.A. Baracus qualities.

In fact, the difference between the November 4 peaks on the Harjit Sajjan and Jody Wilson-Raybould lines in the first graph of this post can probably be traced to the 600+ “badass” tweets that day. As of this writing, the number was approaching 2,200 and still growing (though at a slower rate after 48 hours).


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