Be sure to check out all five articles in this series:
- Election 2006 and Social Media – The Liberals
- Election 2006 and Social Media – The Green Party
- Election 2006 and Social Media – The NDP
- Election 2006 and Social Media – The Bloc Quebecois
- Election 2006 and Social Media – The Conservatives
The Internet has been held up as the distribution medium of choice for "the little guy". With a little tech savvy and a decent graphics program, an individual could have a voice that has the potential to be equally heard along with the big guys. The NDP is often portrayed as "the little guy" in Canadian politics; how are they taking advantage of social media to promote their message and engage their constituency in an authentic conversation?
While the NDP has an exceptionally easy-to-use website (best of the five, really), they are the only national party that doesn’t tout a blog. Now, compared with what the other political parties are doing, I don’t actually think this is much of an issue. Only one, the Green Party, has a true blog – the others either don’t allow comments, or don’t respond to comments that are left.
Perhaps more importantly than a blog, the NDP does provide an RSS feed to their press releases on the homepage; it is the only feed of the major political parties that Bloglines was able to auto-discover.
Individual NDP candidates, however, have a number of blogs, or blog-like sites. As with individual candidates of other parties, the NDP’s candidates’ use of blogs varies widely. Most allow open comments and generally respond when a comment is posted. However, unlike, for example, the Bloc’s blog and website, the overall volume of comments is quite low. Most candidates, if they do have a blog, offer a prominent feed. A few, like Celine Brault , offer feeds of both posts and comments.
As with other parties, it can be tricky to find a list of all NDP candidates who blog. The NDP national site has pages for all their candidates and lists their website; however, there is no master candidate blog list.
Although the national NDP may not be blogging, they are podcasting and videocasting, Or at least providing a feed of their audio and video content. Similar to the CPC, the NDP isn’t creating original content for their feed; however, they are pushing out their TV spots, audio snippets of Jack Layton on the campaign trail and archival audio from Tommy Douglas. Oddly, they are not podcasting their radio commercials, although these are available on their site.
At least one candidate is ‘casting on his own; Paul Summerville (St. Paul’s) podcasts about once a week and is creating original content for these podcasts.
So how does the NDP stack up in terms of using social media to let a supporter take the experience of the party with them? Hands down, the NDP wins the wallpaper wars. Only two have Mr. Layton on them; the rest are striking photos of different provincial scenes that are lightly branded with the local NDP party. Individual candidates offer personalised versions of the wallpaper.
Unfortunately, none of the NDP candidate sites offered badges or buttons for supporters to put on their blog or website. Interestingly, one candidate (Rupindar Brar, Mississauga-Erindale) has icons for MSN Messenger that a supporter could download and set as their display picture.
Social media are also used to rally the troops. Oddly, the main NDP site does not have an event calendar where supporters can follow Jack Layton. Individual candidates’ websites generally have calendars, though they differ often in how far in advance events can be searched. Lynn Bowering has a full-featured calendar; she is also one of the few NDPers to take advantage of arranging Meetups on the web.
For me, social media should promote conversation both online and off. The NDP offered the ultimate social media tool during the debates: Give ‘em the Boot Bingo Cards . Supporters could download bingo cards to use during the debate to check off promises made by other candidates. Whether this was tongue-in-cheek, or actually intended for real use is debatable (heh), but, if the NDP had combined this with the “Rendez-Vous” program offered by the Bloc, this would have been an incredibly effective program; give people a tool to organize socially as well as an activity to rally around.
All in all, is the NDP taking advantage of Social Media to promote their message and candidates? Like other parties, it’s hit and miss. The NDP is doing the minimum in providing RSS feeds to press releases and to their audio and video content. It is their individual candidates that are really driving the use of social media to great lengths in their individual constituencies. The NDP, as a national entity, needs to work with these leading edge candidates (and their site developers) to create a national strategy for social media that can then be rolled out to less tech-savvy candidates. Including sites like Blogging Dippers in their plans would further enhance their online community and conversations.
Bonus Link: Rob Cottingham’s company Social Signal has just created Confeederation , a site that aggregates feeds from the five major parties’ blogs. Recent posts from party candidates are aggregated on the home page, and individual feeds of each party’s candidates’ blogs are offered as well. This is a great service; thanks, Rob for showing the power of social media and e-democracy!