A mentor once told me I should always strive to turn disadvantages into advantages.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May might not have the opportunity to connect with Canadians in a traditional fashion during the 2011 electoral debates, but she will only be excluded from those debates if she settles for television as the sole medium to reach the masses. It is time for head of parties to think outside the box and Elizabeth May has the opportunity to lead the way. She has nothing to lose.
Sheldon Levine of Sysomos.com recently used a social media monitoring and analytics platform, MAP, to look at the online chatter in relation to the first five days of the campaign.
"In the past five days our system found almost 2,500 blogs, 10,000 online news articles, 2,600 forums posts and 72,000 tweets coming from Canada mentioning the election. Those tweets had a possible reach of 70.8 million impressions. Not bad for a country of 33 million", writes Levine. In 2008, the audience watching the televised debate peaked near 4 million.
Precious time, money and energy are currently being invested by Team May in order to reverse a decision that will most likely not change. I am myself against this decision. Not only is it anti-democratic but Canadian taxpayers finance the Green Party and therefore have a right to hear about their policies. May has more than enough reasons to fight against the broadcast consortium’s debate snub.
However, the Green Party Leader is also in a position to take risks that other parties cannot afford.
In the 2011 campaign, I would like to see Elizabeth May live comment the debates online, be it on Ustream or on a website created specifically for this purpose. She can simultaneously discuss the issues being debated on television and she can even answer live questions from twitternation. I’m guessing I’m not the only Canadian who watches TV with her laptop on her lap.
Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message”. It is remarkable how this statement still holds true despite all the technological advancements we’ve witnessed within the last few years.
Social media is not just about numbers, followers, views, or clicks. The reach of social media is potentially limitless and its biggest strength, especially for a political party, lies in its power to create tribes. Who knows, if May is innovative enough, she could be the one making headlines the morning of April 13.
I can’t predict the impact of social media on real life events, but one thing is sure: if I was excluded from an old boy’s party, I’d throw my own fiesta. On my own terms, and at a cooler venue.