Digital Media and the 2011 General Elections

I worked on the Liberal Campaign during the May 2, 2011 General Elections. As a member of the digital media team, I learned a lot about using social media to enhance public engagement in political processes. Tools such as Twitter and Facebook allow campaigning politicians to converse directly with voters across the country. While I appreciate the value of town halls and face-to-face interactions, in a country as big as Canada, it can be difficult for federal candidates to reach out to voters, and social media allows for a personal, informal touch that doesn’t come through in broadcasting and print media.

Here are a few of my favourite digital media moments of the Liberal Party of Canada’s Campaign.

  1. The Liberal Platform Launch: using an online town hall format, we launched the platform live to an in-person and online audience. During the hour-and-a-half launch, several thousand citizens logged into the Cover It Live chat and asked questions, which we did our best to field and answer. Several questions were answered directly by Michael Ignatieff, just as if they had been asked by members of the live audience.
  2. The Rise-Up Video: this speech was picked up by both traditional and social media outlets as soon as it was given, at a Town Hall in Sudbury. My role was to put in the French captions, as francophones quickly asked to have access to a version of the speech with subtitles. As of today, 118,000 people have viewed the video on YouTube.
  3. The Montreal Facebook Town Hall: we decided to stream this event on Facebook rather than on Cover It Live in order to make it easier for youth to participate. The live event took place at Presse Café on Parc, in Montreal, with Michael Ignatieff, Justin Trudeau, and other local candidates. While the event was being streamed live, participants could comment on the Facebook page and ask questions. I moderated the questions and picked out about half a dozen of them (and not just the easy ones!) which I read to Mr. Ignatieff. Since his answer was then broadcast on Facebook, there was no need for me to type it in, but I frantically wrote a short translation, as the questions were both in French and in English. I thought that the live event/Facebook combination was really exciting.
This election was the one that made most use, in Canada, of Web 2.0 tools. It would be interesting to find a way to measure the impact of these tools on citizen engagement in the campaign and, ultimately, on voting behaviour.