Election 2006 and Social Media – The Bloc Quebecois

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Be sure to check out all five articles in this series:

The Bloc Québecois is in a unique position as a national political party; they are serving a regional constituency with a small number of candidates. As a result, their use of Social Media seems to be focused around a specific type of interaction: create a central place where party members and supporters can contribute to the vision of the Bloc.

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Gilles Duceppe is one of two major party leaders to have a blog (the other is Jim Harris, leader of the Green Party). Mr. Duceppe posts about once a week and comments are open. His posts generally have a lot of comments from readers – usually between two and three dozen per post. Mr. Duceppe does not respond to the comments; however, readers will respond to each other. Readers can also subscribe to a feed of the posts, though, not to a feed of the comments.

In addition to Duceppe’s blog, several other areas on the Bloc’s site include commenting functionality and other interactive tools. The home page of the site has a series of topical “postings” where visitors can leave comments. As on Mr. Duceppe’s blog, no one from the Bloc responds officially, but readers are active and will respond to each other. These posts are on both the Bloc’s homepage as well as on the Bloc’s Forum Jeunesse .

After each post is a set of tools that apply to the post: comment, email, print, donate. However, the labels for these tools is different depending on which site you’re visiting. The youth site has much more active labels (e.g. “React!” instead of “Comment”) and the “Donate” button is absent. This is a great example of tailoring your message to niche audiences within your larger market.

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The Forum Jeunesse has a number of features that encourage participation by young members of the Bloc. One of the most popular is a series of daily short comedic video snippets by a custodian named “Ray” who offers droll, pun-filled observations about Canadian politics. Each snippet has several comments from viewers. This feature would be enhanced by a videocasting feed resulting in automatic notification of new videos.

Young Bloc members are also encouraged to upload pictures, videos and other artwork to show their support for the Bloc Offline political socialization is supported in two ways through the Bloc’s site. First, their Event Calendar is one of the most comprehensive of all of the national political parties. When originally researching this article, I was able to see what would be happening over the course of each week; I could see beyond today which was not the case on the sites of other parties.

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The Event Calendar supports another community-building feature. It encourages visitors to upload their own photos or videos of a Bloc event. On the Forum Jeunesse site, members are encouraged to post their own events. The Bloc offered a way for young members to organize and publicize Rendez-Vous on the nights of the French language debates.

The Bloc’s site also offers a number of ways for me to take the “Bloc Experience” with me. There is downloadable wallpaper on the site. Interestingly, none of it sports Gilles Duceppe’s image; instead, there are picturesque scenes of Quebec or young Bloc members (this is a lesson I feel other parties could learn; does anyone really want desktop wallpaper of a party leader?).

A visitor can also send Bloc e-cards. These cards are not as feature-rich as the ones on the CPC’s site (as described in the previous article in this series), but they are hilarious. Finally, the Bloc’s multimedia archive is quite extensive: radio commercials, video, posters of print campaigns, and a logo library (with Pantone colours!) – any citizen activist’s or journalist’s dream. However, they could take a page from other parties and RSS enable some of this content.

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In addition to reviewing the Bloc’s site for Social Media, I also looked to individual candidate sites … when I could find them. Of the 75 candidates, less than a dozen had campaign or constituency sites that I could find. And even if they did have their own site, they were not linked to from the official candidate’s page; I located them through Google.

Most followed a standard Bloc template and very few had any recent or webified content; most posted only press releases and backgrounders on the candidate. None that I could find had a blog or allowed local constituents to connect with them.

So, where does the Bloc stand on Social Media? I think the Bloc has absolutely the right idea about engaging the community, but simply doesn’t take advantage of current tools that are available to build the community. Photo tagging, share a photo with a friend, a centralized discussion forum, a more robust Rendez-Vous engine—all these are technologies that would further support the Bloc’s initiatives to build community.

Also, individual candidates need to get engaged: take the community building to a grassroots level and leverage new technologies to allow a stronger level of participation by Bloc members. But aside from their light foray into Social Media, the Bloc still has the funniest ecards and the kicky-est theme song. It’s in my current iTunes mix – “Hereusement, ici c’est le Bloc!”. Next on the Social Media ballot, the NDP.  

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