Nova Scotia

C.B. candidates poke, tweet and follow voters

As politicians fan out across their ridings to knock on doors and shake hands, an increasing number of voters are looking to meet them online.

As politicians fan out across their ridings to knock on doors and shake hands, an increasing number of voters are looking to meet their candidates online.

In the hotly-contested Nova Scotia riding of Sydney-Victoria, candidates are as likely to poke, tweet and friend request voters as they are to kiss a baby. The most popular online tools are the candidate's website, Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube.

The incumbent, Liberal Mark Eyking, has a polished internet presence. As with most candidates, he does not directly handle most of his online activities, but leaves that to staffer David MacRury.

MacRury said voters come to Eyking's website to learn more about the politician, but they also leave helpful information behind.

"We have some information on the users — a little bit about where they're from," he says. Facebook users who have their birthday on their own page allow MacRuray to get a rough demographic picture of who is curious about his candidate.

"A little over 30 per cent of the users are over the age of 34," he said.

As of early April 1, 218 people "like" Eyking's Facebook page and 1,388 have visited it. It provides details of where Eyking is, posts video, photos and offers Eyking's take on issues. It also allows voters to write on his wall and comment on his posts.

MacRury said they have even better tools for Eyking's website, where Google Analytics show them how many people have been on the site, how long they stayed and how they came to the website.  

Eyking also has a Twitter account, @MarkEyking, and tweets frequently. During campaigns, most politicians are too busy to post their own online communications, said MacRury. The most common exception is Twitter, which is often done directly by the candidates.

Two-way street at PC HQ

At the headquarters of the Progressive Conservative candidate, long-time provincial politician Cecil Clarke also has strong online presence for his campaign. His web work is managed by staffer Stephen Tobin, who said candidates have to embrace the open conversation of the internet.

"It's very much a two-way street. If you go out there, you have to be prepared for the good, the bad, the ugly," he said. "If people have a positive comment, we welcome it with open arms. If people have a negative comment, we welcome that as well."

Clarke's Facebook page requires that people add him as a friend to get fully involved, and he lists 1,793 friends. It also has photos from events, comments and details of where Clarke is campaigning. His Twitter account, @CecilClarke, offers a steady stream of tweets.

NDP gearing up

At the NDP headquarters, rookie candidate Kathy MacLeod has a page on the national NDP website, but is still waiting for an office internet connection. Her campaign manager, Suzanne MacNeil, said it's coming.

"Folks can look for an announcement within the week where they can go to a Facebook page and keep a lookout at all the different [tweets] during the election," she said.

MacLeod does have a personal Facebook page, with 1,021 friends, but it offers little other public information.