By Austin M. Davis
Followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook didn’t equate to a winning number of votes for either Meka Okochi or Marian Donnelly on Oct. 24.
The top three finishers in Regina’s mayoral race all used social media as important tools to promote, and provide information about, their campaigns.
Mayor-elect Michael Fougere used Twitter to connect with potential voters but the amount of votes he received far surpassed his social media presence.
“Well it’s new for me and certainly I found it an interesting endeavor. I think it has played a large role,” Fougere said after his victory.
Before the polls closed on Wednesday night, Fougere had 781 followers on Twitter; stark contrast to his 79 likes on Facebook. The more than 20,000 votes Fougere received showed that there are a lot more voters in Regina who don’t use social media.
“I found the results of the election on Twitter before I saw it on television. It’s quite amazing what the impact is of social media,” Fougere said.
Donnelly and Okochi, who placed second and third respectively, both said that social media was an important part of their campaigns.
Even before the results poured in, Donnelly recognized that it has its limitations.
“I think that it helps you reach a certain age group. The thing that I found on this campaign was Twitter was where the most negativity came up,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly – who received over 15,000 votes – mentioned candidate Chad Novak as a source of negativity and frustration.
“Instead of having productive or more positive discourse, it just seemed like anytime anybody said anything there would then be a slew of negativity around that,” Donnelly said.
Instead, her campaign used Facebook to deal with questions and comments in a more diplomatic way, she added, and without the burden of limited words.
Meka Okochi credited social media for his 18 per cent of the vote.
“We understand that in the modern era of politics there is no way you can reach out to people without the use of social media platforms,” Okochi said. “When I started my campaign, I was relatively unknown. Very few people knew me.”
Okochi said that he was proud with the accomplishments of his campaign and, regardless of the outcome, wouldn’t have made any changes to his approach on social media.
“We ensured that we remained positive on Twitter. We ensured that we remained respectful. We focused on the issues, we respectfully engaged citizens when we were attacked and we stayed above the fray,” Okochi said.