The Province By Janni Aragon 5 April 2011

It is fair to say that the 41st federal election in Canada is the first real social-media election in this country.

During the first 36 hours of the campaign more than 14,000 tweets related to the election were posted on Twitter. Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and countless others have changed political campaigning and offered a new online political environment.

Most of us look back to the American presidential election of 2008 as the social media game-changer thanks to Chris Hughes, who took a sabbatical from a company you might have heard of -Facebook -and ran Barack Obama’s social-media campaign. Under Hughes, the “My Barack Obama” site had more than two million unique profiles, more than 30,000 volunteer groups and helped the Obama campaign not only get the message out, but engaged voters and allowed for unprecedented donations in smaller denominations.

The social-media campaign run by the Obama camp was without a doubt a watershed moment in history. But it was only the beginning.

The 2010 midterm elections in the U.S. saw an even heightened use of social media -this time by the Republicans. They learned the hard way with the 2008 election and were online on Facebook, Twitter as well as blogs.

Research illustrated that candidates who were on Facebook were more likely to win the campaign. But the point is that candidates are trying to engage with constituents via social media as an additional way to engage the voters. The “Get Out the Vote” campaign must now include a social-media strategy.

Politicians are adapting to the reality of campaigning in the 21st century and this includes having to reach out to people on their smart phones, tablets and laptops. The Jack Layton NDP iPhone app is free. I could not find any other Canadian party apps for the federal election; however, I imagine they are in the works.

I was not surprised that the Liberal Party unveiled their new platform live from their website on Sunday. Ignatieff noted that this inclusive launch was the first of its kind in Canada. And it certainly won’t be the last.

For those of you new to Twitter, I suggest you also check out http: // politwitter.ca/ to get information about the candidates and party leaders and their use of Twitter.

You cannot only check out their posts, but also Twitter statistics regarding heavily re-tweeted posts or favourite tweets and more. Get online and participate as part of the growing group of “netizens.”

Janni Aragon, a senior instructor of political science at the University of Victoria, can be reached via jaragon@uvic.ca or @janniaragon on Twitter. For information on Twitter statistics about the party leaders please see: http://tinyurl.com/3p57qlb.