During the last Sask NDP leadership race, I spent a lot of time analysing the social media aspects of each candidate’s campaign. As we get another leadership race underway, the social media landscape has changed and grown, both in terms of services available and also the reach of sites like Facebook, Twitter and numerous other quasi-social media sites like YouTube, Google, Wikipedia and so on.
Unlike the person on Twitter who declared Erin Weir the presumptive winner (not just front-runner, the *winner*!) in the social media race because he has the most people talking about him in a couple social media arenas the day the race was launched, I think you have to be a bit more careful about the metrics you look at and how you interpret them.
For example, in the last race, Dwain Lingenfelter had way more Facebook followers than Ryan Meili yet, once you looked deeper, it was clear that many of Link’s supporters were from out-of-province and out-of-country and wouldn’t have any impact on the actual leadership race.
We also have to be careful about giving too much weight to social media numbers generally (something I admit to being guilty of myself on occasion.) But as we saw last time, the leadership race will not just be about social media. It’s about the candidate, their story, their history, the platform they release, the team they have around them, the connections they have within the party, their ability to sign-up new members and to connect with the average person.
Even though social media isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, I still thought it’d be interesting to see how the various potential candidates stack up at the beginning of this race in a few different categories including both social media and quasi-social media sites:
[Edit: After compiling the following information, it was revealed that Cam Broten would be running with the support of MLA Danielle Chartier. So you can remove her from the list below.]
|Facebook Friends (Personal Account)||1910||1803||953||1275||1119||2433|
|Facebook Likes (Draft/Campaign/Official Account)||41||447||N/A||164||344||235|
|Facebook Talking About||0||2||0||0||186||0|
|Google Hits (“Full Name in Quotes”)||5130||22,400||4980||10,400||27,900||7050|
|Google Hits (“Full Name in Quotes” NDP)||6750||5460||5380||4100||8180||5390|
|Google (“Full Name in Quotes” Saskatchewan)||4700||6450||4670||6610||9380||6060|
|Wikipedia Page (Views in Last 30 Days)||145||222||126||356||215||228|
|Wikipedia Page (Word Count)||~114||~101||~56||~1149||~1691||~226|
|YouTube Results (“Full Name in Quotes”)||9||3||2||37||52||14|
Some random thoughts…
- there’s a chance that some of these numbers could be incorrect – either because I made a mistake in transcribing or I may have looked at the wrong page (many of the candidates will have multiple pages – for example, Danielle Chartier has both an official Twitter account as an MLA and one as an NDP candidate. I think Erin Weir has a “Draft Weir” Twitter account and now an official campaign Twitter account. There’s a “Draft Ryan” page I cited above with 164 “Likes” but there’s also his book page with 443 Likes which would put him just a couple people shy of Cam Broten in that category.)
- for someone I knew very little about going into this race, I was surprised to see that Erin Weir has a strong social media presence across all categories. I suspect much of this has to do with the media presence he’s had as a union spokesperson appearing on national programs on the CBC, BNN and so on which can magnify your social media impact. But still impressive any way you look at it.
- even though Weir seems to be in the lead generally, I think each of the four main rumoured candidates’ campaigns (Broten, Meili, Weir, Wotherspoon) could probably cherry pick favourable ones (or find ones I didn’t list here) to make the case that they have the greatest or most important social media reach.
- also, as I said above, you have to realise not all of these numbers are as reflective of what they appear to show. As just one example, Trent Wotherspoon has a relatively high number of YouTube hits but many of these videos are uploaded by people who want to cast him in a negative light and could be counter-productive to his campaign if NDP members were researching which candidate to support.
- I suspect the strong Erin Weir “Facebook – People Are Talking About” numbers compared to everyone else’s negligible totals is due to a Facebook advertising campaign that promoted the “Draft Erin Weir” page. My understanding is that this means people who clicked on the ad were seen as “talking about” Erin Weir but whether that translates to actual widespread buzz is arguable (to the point that I hesitated to even include this metric in my list. But since the guy who posted it on Twitter focused on it, I decided to list it here. But as I said about candidates having multiple pages, Facebook shows there are 30 people talking about Ryan on his book page, not an insignificant number – especially without an advertising campaign.)
- speaking of buzz, I think it’s interesting that the one category where Ryan Meili is clearly leading – “Wikipedia views in the last 30 days” – is also a better indicator of general interest in a candidate as Wikipedia pages tend to be the default starting point for anybody looking to learn more about a specific topic online.
- another thing to keep in mind – campaign supporters can easily game almost any of these categories if they want. It wasn’t exactly social media related but I remember a poll in the last leadership race which showed Yens Pedersen with a commanding lead over all other candidates but he ended up finishing third in the actual race. Same with the example of Link having the most Facebook supporters – until you looked a bit closer and realised they were mostly non-Saskatchewan residents.
- the Google search, at least just for the name but even with it in quotes so it only counts pages where the first and last name appear in that order, could be bloated if someone has a common name (based on the results I got, I suspect there are more “Cam Broten”‘s and “Erin Weir”‘s in the world than “Trent Wotherspoon”‘s and “Ryan Meili”‘s.)
- I tried to control for this by adding the search term “NDP” to each name but that works against anyone who has a shorter history with the party or less of a profile, either via media appearances or being a sitting MLA. I did the same thing with the word “Saskatchewan” and that shifted the results slightly. Hard to say which combination of search terms is going to give the most accurate results of the reach of each candidate.
- I didn’t do it here but another way to analyse the relative strength of campaigns isn’t to just look at who has the biggest number of whatevers but to look at who’s been around the longest – who has the oldest Wikipedia page? The earliest Tweet? The oldest YouTube video? Etc. Etc. That could demonstrate a campaign’s depth as well as its strength. As just one example, the number of tweets, though not completely correlated to the age of an account, shows Weir far behind the rest of the pack in terms of total tweets – possibly an indicator of a relatively new account.
- if anyone reading this would like to research and add any categories I missed, feel free to post them as a comment below.
- I didn’t include this on the list but there’s another category where Ryan leads in the social media arena. My post about Ryan’s similarities to Barack Obama has prompted the campaign’s first (and so far, only) anonymous Twitter attack account! I went down this road in the last leadership campaign as people would get enraged whenever I compared Ryan to someone like Barack Obama or <gasp> Tommy Douglas so I won’t spend a lot of time on defending this comparison. But I stand by what I wrote then:
Since my earliest posts about Ryan, I’ve compared him to politicians like Barack Obama and Tommy Douglas. But as I said when I began this latest series of posts with “#10 – He’s Soft Spoken“, I knew this wasn’t literally the case – only that these kinds of comparisons worked as a useful shorthand for the type of leader someone might resemble in policy or strategy.
The comparisons can also be useful to provide some insight into the type of leader a candidate had the potential to be. In fact, in some ways, I think Ryan’s best analogy might be a sort of hybrid of Tommy Douglas and Barack Obama - a “21st Century Tommy Douglas” if you will.
The comparisons are useful to a point but in the end, should he become the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP on Saturday, Ryan Meili won’t be the next TC Douglas, the next Barack Obama or the next anyone else. Ultimately, he will be the first Ryan Meili.