Social media a key tool for election candidates

Connecting on social media: Green candidate John Kelcher's Twitter page.
Tweeting to parliament: Green candidate John Kelcher makes heavy use of Twitter.

Most Christchurch candidates are using social media in this election, but some are using it better and more often than others.

All Christchurch MPs, except Gerry Brownlee, and most candidates have Twitter accounts. Green Party list MP Mojo Mathers has the most followers with just over 4000.

Christchurch Central Labour candidate Tony Milne, who has just over 1300 Twitter followers, is using both Twitter and Facebook to campaign and says social media are effective tools for attracting and engaging supporters, particularly as younger people are more likely to use them.

“Any effective campaigns should be where people are, and many people now choose to engage in politics through social media.”

Not that Milne spams his followers. Since Monday, he has posted only 12 times on his Facebook page and tweeted 19 times.

Some candidates message their followers much more frequently. Across town in the Ilam electorate, Green Party candidate John Kelcher has tweeted more than 70 times and uploaded 10 posts on his Facebook page over the same time.

Massey University politics student and social media expert Matthew Beveridge says overuse of social media is a risk, but when used well it can be very effective.

“If you look at someone like Tau Henare he sends upwards of 300 tweets most weeks. But because he is engaging, and showing his personality, people interact with him.”

Kelcher says it is hard for him to assess how effective social media has been for him at the electorate level.

“Social media connects me to people all around New Zealand and the world. So as far as local campaigning goes, there’s not really much at the electorate level, but it’s very effective for national politics.”

But this suits the Green Party, which is campaigning for party votes from all over the country. It is perhaps not surprising then that the party leads the pack on Facebook. It has 62,000 likes, 30,000 more than Labour, the second-highest ranking party on Facebook.

When it comes to individuals, John Key has the biggest presence on social media with over 164,000 Facebook followers and 12,000 Twitter followers.

Beveridge says, if used right, social media can reach people who are not normally reached by traditional campaigning methods.

“If you run a good online, social media campaign, you can get your message in front of people who don’t normally vote.”

_by Kyle Knowles

Party Facebook followers (as of 18/09/14):
National: 28778
Labour: 29948
Green: 61958
NZ First: 1992
Conservative: 3110
ACT: 3009
Maori: 5202
Mana: 10431
Internet: 34201

Party leader Facebook followers (as of 18/09/14):
John Key: 164004
David Cunliffe: 22397
Russell Norman and Metiria Turei: No Facebook pages
Winston Peters: 21704
Colin Craig: 1984
Jamie Whyte: 1932
Te Ururoa Flavell: 8077
Hone Harawira: No Facebook page
Laila Harre: 6333