Social media plays important role, reaches all age groups during election campaign: political scientist

By | August 14, 2019

Social media is no longer a place only young people are scrolling online and it’s playing an important role in Manitoba’s election campaign, a political scientist says.

Christopher Adams with St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba said compared to a decade ago, when social media was more for a younger audience, it’s now reaching people of all different age groups, especially Facebook.

Manitobans heads to the polls Sept. 10. Adams said because the campaign is in the summer and families are getting ready for school, social media is already having an impact.

“We’ve seen so far a heavy use of social media on Facebook, Twitter, things like that. The first Pallister advertisement I saw was on Twitter, not TV,” said Adams.

Adams said social media is useful for parties with fewer volunteers and funds, because it doesn’t cost as much as some other media.

Although he said social media is like any media, explaining that, “Exposure doesn’t translate to votes, but a lack of exposure hampers your ability to win votes.”

Social media staff and strategies

CTV News reached out to the parties about their resources and strategies for social media during the campaign.

The PCs said it has a team managing its social media, doing live streaming of campaign events, photos and running ads.

The NDP says it has several dedicated social media staff. Through social media, some paid, it said it’s focused on getting the message out and driving sign ups.

The Liberals said they have a team posting and monitoring all social media platforms. The party said it’s focused on content about its policies and answering questions.

Three candidates talk social media in the campaign

Fort Richmond Liberal candidate Tanjit Nagra has close to 10,000 followers on her Instagram account. She said she has an interest in social media and has worked hard to build her profile.

“There are a lot of students in the area and I think it’s important when you have an election and you have younger people, having someone who can relate to them is super important,” said Nagra.

Progressive Conservative candidate Sarah Guillemard upped her online presence when she entered politics four years ago, from Facebook to also include Twitter and Instagram.

This election, she’s also getting tips from her teenage daughter.

“Although it does reach a pretty big audience, it’s an easy way for those who may not initially feel comfortable to approach me and find out my characteristics and qualities,” said Guillemard, who is also running in Fort Richmond.

St. Vital NDP candidate Jamie Moses said he’s using social media to engage with people on the big issues, like education and health care.

He said voters have been sharing posts and sending him private messages.

“I think as any conversation that you have, you want to listen, and listen to Manitobans and understand where they are coming from and what’s important to them, and I think that goes into making any politician informed,” said Moses.

Nagra, Guillemard and Moses all said social media doesn’t replace door-to-door campaigning, and face-to-face contact is key in the campaign.