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Will Prince George’s new city hall connect with citizens online?

Posted on 21 November 2011

Prince George has a new mayor, and a mix of old and new on city council.

As has become customary for election campaigns over the past few years, there were a number of candidates running on the idea of re-connecting with voters, being more accessible and transparent, and having a two-way conversation with citizens.

I’m curious if this will match up with another election theme: having a presence on social media.

In the United States, both the Republicans and the Democrats have caught onto using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr et al to get their message out there.

In Canada, the federal election featured politicians on all sides Tweeting, and even an NDP iPhone app.

Most candidates in this past city campaign had at least a rudimentary presence online. Let’s see how they were used by those who were elected:

Frank Everitt

Everitt is a new face on council. He had no official website, but he did have a fairly robust Facebook page. He started with a post in early October introducing himself and posted with increasing frequency as time went on. Posts included explanations of his inability to attend one of the all-candidates’ debates, photos, and links to articles about the election. His most recent post as of this morning is an enthusiastic thank-you for his election.

He was on Twitter significantly less, and with far less conversation. In fact, his four most recent Tweets seem to be mistakes, with his latest (from election day) being the somewhat baffling statement “Could be sure taken their sweet time.”

34 “likes” on Facebook, 7 followers on Twitter, following 1, 5638 votes.

Garth Frizzell

Frizzell is returning to council, and is no stranger to the world of social media. He has had a robust Twitter presence for years, engaging in conversation multiple times a day, and he has opened up his personal Facebook page to subscribers, as well. He also has a blog, Google Plus, and LinkedIn accounts. Given that he reportedly found out he was re-elected via Twitter while at a Tweet-up, he odds of him connecting online are pretty much 100%.

1,296 followers, following 1,561, 830 friends, 6189 votes.

Dave Wilbur

A veteran of council, Wilbur ran a decidedly non-social media oriented campaign. As best I can tell, he has no presence on Twitter. He has the word “councilor” on his personal Facebook url which may be an effort to identify himself as a politician, or might just be him identifying his job. His wall is public, and the last few posts include a campaign sign and him touting his efforts to bring 911 to the Bulkley Nechako. Prior to his October announcement of running for re-election, though, the most recent posts were a few from July, and then a few from April. During the course of the campaign he posted six times.

116 friends, 6932 votes.

Cameron Stolz

Another incumbent, Stolz also ran a (failed) campaign to be the Conservative candidate for Prince George – Peace River while sitting on council. Did this extra campaign beef up his social media presence? Not on Twitter, where he has 32 followers, is following five, and has no Tweets. CameronStolz.ca does show a link to his Facebook page, and he has been pretty active on there: mp3s of his radio appearances, videos from candidate forums, links to articles about the election, and status updates.

Go back, though, and you’ll notice a complete absence of posts between March (when he lost in his Conservative nomination to Bob Zimmer) and September, when he announces his re-run for city council. We’ll see if he goes equally silent now that he’s no longer campaigning.

It’s also worth mentioning he seems to be more active on his personal Facebook page, which is open but I’m not linking to since he has fan page. I was only able to go back as far as October, when the page was overrun by happy birthday wishes.

32 followers, following 5, 109 “likes,” 542 friends, 7146 votes.

Albert Koehler

Albert Koehler is the second new face we’re talking about, and he seems to have a pretty firm grasp of the two-way conversation to be had on Twitter. If you visit his page this morning, it’s full of him replying to people congratulating him on his win. During the campaign, his messages showed him actively following people and replying to ideas  and questions they were providing. His Facebook page was regularly updated, including with links to his blog expanding on and explaining his positions. He has a YouTube channel, too. If I were a betting man I’d say that aside from Frizzell, he has the best chance of maintaining a presence online now that’s been elected.

130 followers, following 111, 92 “likes,” 7324 votes.

Murry Krause

There’s a Facebook page, but I’m fairly certain Murry doesn’t run it (unless he has a propensity for speaking in the third person that I haven’t observed in any other venue).  It is official, though, since MurryKrause.ca links to it, and run by a very enthusiastic fan who posted links, appearances, etc. Given that the page was “re-elect Murry Krause to council” I don’t know how much life it will have outside of the election campaign. No Twitter that I could find.

52 “likes,” 7976 votes.

Brian Skakun

Skakun was in and out of the Twitter world during his last term on council– mentioning the occasional concert he went to or observation about the city. He became much more active during the campaign, talking about politics and non-politics with others, and continues to be active today responding to congratulations and offering his own. He created an official Facebook page in early October and has been fairly present on there, as well. Again, if I were to guess I’d say we’ll see him intermittently on these platforms, but not with the regularity of Frizzell or Koehler.

235 followers, following 432, 168 “likes”, 9040 votes.

Lyn Hall

A newbie to council (though veteran of school board), and top of the pack for council votes. He has a Facebook account that was created in late September, shortly before his council run, but it’s speculative to say the two are related (though not illogical).  I see two or three posts that Lyn made, both mentioning that he’s running for council,  then a bunch of activity and messages from friends. If there’s a Twitter, I’m not finding it.

154 friends, 9529 votes.

Shari Green

The new mayor of Prince George has forayed into Twitter in the past, apparently under the example of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and the advice of Garth Frizzell. She made two Tweets– one in June announcing she was on Twitter, a second in September expressing her shock that her dad was on Twitter, then nothing. What did surface was the @ShariGreen4Mayr account (the misspelling of which I’m a bit baffled by since “sharigreen4mayor” was available). It made one Tweet with her slogan “Let’s Get Moving!”, followed one inactive account and went silent.

Perhaps this silence was due to all the activity on Facebook. Actually, probably not, since there were only a few posts there, though there were replies to pretty much everyone who wrote on the wall (and there continue to be, as congratulations go up). That said, I’m not expecting her to have a bunch of time to learn and use social media now if she didn’t see it as a useful tool of the campaign. Again, just a prediction.

21 followers, following 1, 146 “likes,” 6969 votes.

Stray Observations

We are obviously not at a point where social media is an essential component of a campaign, especially given that two of the least active users got some of the highest vote counts. Nor is social media an essential component of being an open, accessible leader– most of the candidates listed phone numbers and email addresses where they could be reached, and perhaps were spending so much time using those forms of communication broadcasting to the minority of people on Twitter seemed less essential.  After all, if you only have 27 followers but 60 unread messages, where might you spend your time?

Further, while much of the focus in the tech and media world is on Twitter, based on this cursory glance you’re going to see more activity from local politicians on Facebook. This is reflective of the population at large– there are still far more people on Facebook than on Twitter (and far more actively using phones and email than on either of those platforms, particularly when it comes to the age groups that vote).

That said, the next campaign is three years away. Three years ago, I don’t know that any of the candidates used Twitter. Maybe a few were on Facebook. Municipal candidates, at least here, seems to be some distance from keying in on the social media demographic compared to federal and even provincial politicians. But that’s their base. The Twitter community in Prince George now is still not as robust as the one in Vancouver was two years ago. So you’re not going to see people chasing votes there.

But that Twitter base is growing. And the whole “mobilize your base online” thing really started with Barack Obama, and then trickled outwards. With that team gearing up for another run, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, trickles down here.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Would you like your new mayor and council to interact with you online? Or by some other method. I’m guessing this is the time to let them know.

NameTwitterFacebookwebsitePhoneemail
Shari Green@sharigreen4mayr (@greeninpg)pagesharigreen.ca250-563-4733vote@sharigreen.ca

(greeninpg@gmail.com)

Lyn Hall(none)(none official)lynhall.com250-964-3080lynhallpg@gmail.com

Brian Skakun @brianskakuncity pagebrianskakun.com250-964-2489 bskakun@telus.net
Murry Krause(none)pagemurrykrause.ca250-561-2772info@murrykrause.ca
Albert Koehler@albertkoehlerPGpagealbertkoehler.com250-659 or 250-560-5665email form
Cameron Stolz@stolzpgpagecameronstolz.ca250-640-5299cameron@cameronstolz.ca
Dave Wilbur(none) (none official)(none)???councillordavewilbur@shaw.ca
Garth Frizzell@garthfrizzellsubscribegarthfrizzell.com250-613-2363 or 250-564-8377garthfrizzell@citynotice.ca
Frank Everitt@frankeveritt page (none)???kfeveritt@telus.net

See also: Prince George Election 2011 Informal Recap

Filed under: politics, Prince George, social media

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There are messages everywhereIf you don't walk in random places you don't see stuff like thisOn the side of the old RCMP building in Prince George. #graffiti #cityofPGInteresting.#cityofPGMy office buddy is cuter than yours