Winning Quebec’s first 'Twitter election'
MONTREAL—In every election campaign, parties try to take their message to the voters. In 2012, not only can parties do so directly through social media, they are also hearing back from Quebecers immediately.
"What does social media do? It puts the parties in charge of their own message more than ever," said CTV tech and trends columnist Elias Makos.
Just a few days into the campaign and the strong messages and gaffes on social media are already making headlines.
Over the weekend, a Liberal political attaché retweeted a message that linked the Parti Quebecois to the Nazis, while the Coalition Avenir Quebec has come under fire for using a ‘bot’ to increase the number of references to their party's name.
Makos said the direct connection between voters and politicians has a definite appeal.
"Twitter is a way, and Facebook pages are a way to talk to the electorate, talk to voters, without going through a middleman," said Makos. But while communication is good, political analysts say the need to control the message is more important.
"They want the leader's message out there. They don't want individuals freelancing because that's a good way to get into trouble," said L. Ian Macdonald.
Former CAQ candidate Kamal Lutfi learned that the hard way, when he wrote a tweet suggesting sovereignists were intolerant toward different cultures. Legault promptly dropped Lutfi as a candidate.
Macdonald also feels that parties are likely to use social media to broadcast negative ads.
"I think we're going to see a lot of attack videos in social media that will move over to mainstream media," said Macdonald. Already, two prominent examples already exist: the Liberal YouTube video portraying a pot-lid-banging Pauline Marois, and a PQ ad which criticizes Canadian culture.
Communications expert Philippe Bertrand says at this early stage of the campaign the CAQ is making the best use of social media.
"Every candidate has a Facebook account, they have Twitter accounts. They're actually posting a lot of things every day," said Bertrand.
That was in evidence on Monday, when Legault was quick to post that he was used to dealing with big egos—in an attempt to minimize a spat involving his latest star candidate, anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau.
Several pundits have criticized the Liberals for being social media latecomers, but Bertrand said the Liberals are using a concentrated, guided effort to narrowcast their news conferences and announcements.
Several PQ MNAs are quite active on social media, but Marois has been criticized for buying 'likes' on Facebook.
"If you look at the PQ right now they're actually looking for a strategy," said Bertrand.
Makos said that social media seems tailor-made for elections, but its importance should not be overstated.
"I don't think Twitter can replace the traditional grass-roots campaign just yet," said Makos.