• Election time is upon us. Last time around I did an assessment of the candidates’ use of digital and social media tools to reach voters. The pickings were slim in 2011, with few candidates using social media or establishing much of an online presence.

    I predicted then, that this time around social media would play a larger role as the tools themselves became more ubiquitous and the common folk, the often fickle target of campaign messages, became more adept at engaging in the virtual space. So what of my prediction?

    I spent some time touring the City of Maple Ridge website this week, checking out registered candidates and taking a peek at their online footprints. Kudos to the City, by the way, for putting candidates bios and digital links on the community website. Kudos to the candidates themselves who provided biographical information and actually have a digital presence to find. Some don’t. Boo.

    From my perch, an absolute must-have for all candidates is a good website.

    It doesn’t have to be fancy but it does need to give us the basics: who they are, their experience, what they stand for, their platform, and how we can connect with them. Extra points for great visuals, and a clean layout that is easy to navigate, and anyone with a relevant blog gets a gold star.

    Some of the sites I visited are pretty slick and some have more of an ‘Aw, shucks’ vibe. Whether or not the look and feel actually represents the genuine character of the candidate remains to be seen, but let’s hope so. A fundamental tenet of effective digital and good marketing is to be consistent: be who you truly are online and off. For many the only way we are going to engage with candidates during election time is online. Give us the real thing.

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    So what about social media? The old marketing adage is: Go where the traffic is.

    With more than a billion people using Facebook, I expect to find potential candidates there, with a good Facebook page, not just a personal profile.. I automatically deduct points for candidates who use a personal profile to campaign. Like many, I am getting numerous Facebook friend requests from candidates. I won’t be friending them back, because frankly, I don’t want to be friends with people I don’t know, but I will happily be searching for their Facebook pages to ‘like’ and follow as the election heats up. I’m an engaged voter and I want to know what they have to say.

    A common thread amongst candidates is a lament about the lack of voter turnout and a desire to increase engagement. It’s no secret that if you’re after the hearts of young voters, you will find them online. Young people are digitally savvy and will be looking for candidates online who are thoughtful, relevant, interesting and engaging.

    Those who have a great website integrated with links to a Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile and content that makes an authentic connection and respects the online cultures and norms will going a long way to building credibility amongst voters. In Election 2014, it could make the difference.