nb-jeff-roach-220

Digital marketing strategist Jeff Roach says social media is coming of age in local politics. (Courtesy of Uptown Saint John)

Many Saint John voters say they're planning to use social media to help them decide how to vote in the May municipal election.

Facebook, Twitter and blogs are expected to play a greater role in the upcoming election than ever before, said digital marketing strategist Jeff Roach.

He expects social media will improve voter engagement – and voter turnout.

"The more people you get online, who are obviously interested in participating in a public dialogue, it's also going to get them out for half an hour to get them on the ballot," said Roach.

Fewer than half of Saint John's eligible voters showed up at the polls in 2008 – 49.9 per cent.

Social media was too new to make much of an impact in the last election, said Cindy Kilpatrick, who has started a Facebook page called SJ BUZZ, where ordinary citizens can swap thoughts on local politics and issues.

She believes this election will be different, noting her page already has 75 members.

"Don't go the old route of putting up signs," advised Kilpatrick. "Create a Twitter page, Facebook page, put up a website."

Ray Strowbridge has done all three in his bid to run in ward four on the city’s east side.

Strowbridge, a paramedic, had to teach himself the technology.

But he thinks it's absolutely necessary, he said.

"I don't have huge name recognition. I'm not famous, just Joe-public citizen."