How well have the West Tyrone candidates used social media?

The use of ‘social media’ has become widely accepted now as staples for any sort of electoral campaign.

This Thursday’s general election has been the most interactive in history, in terms of online access to the candidates.  So how well has West Tyrone’s six candidates utilised ‘new media’ for the 2010 general election?

DUP: Tom Buchanan

The DUP have links to a YouTube channel, Facebook page, twitter feed and Flickr photo stream on the main party site. But there is virtually no effort for any sort of constituency specific social media for the West Tyrone contest. Cllr Clive McFarland does fly the West Tyrone DUP flag on twitter, but there is nothing from the party.

Sinn Fein: Pat Doherty

It’s no surprise given the size of Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone party machinery that they’ve covered most new media angles for this election. Sinn Fein run a constituency blog which is well updated with local party news. Ogra Shinn Fein are also quite active in West Tyrone, as this constituency specific youth election broadcast illustrates. Pat Doherty also has quite a popular Facebook group on the go. They don’t however have a localised twitter, but West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff is a recent convert to the Twitisphere.

Conservative and Unionists: Ross Hussey

The West Tyrone branch of the UUP are the only other party other than Sinn Fein who maintain a constituency blog, which is reasonably well updated. There’s not much else, but Ross Hussey does make good use of a Facebook account to promote his campaign and interact with constituents.

SDLP: Joe Byrne

Virtually nothing local to speak of. Like the DUP, the main party website does cover most of the social media bases but are extremely lacking on any West Tyrone interaction.

Alliance: Michael Bower

As you’d expect from the youngest of the six candidates, Bower appears on the surface to give a good account for him self with regard to social networking. Along with his personal Facebook account, he has a dedicated page for his campaign. However, taking a look at the Alliance candidate’s twitter page and blog, it appears  these two latter accounts exist more for their own sake rather for any meaningful  campaigning. The last blog entry was March 30 and the twitter account has a meagre five tweets. But Bower does deserve some credit for at least acknowledging the importance of social media for this election.

Independent: Ciaran McClean

Ciaran McClean is unique among the candidates in that he has chosen to carry out all his electoral campaigning  solely online. He currently has a Facebook campaign group with 129 members as well as his own account. He also has uploaded a blog, although there are only 3 entries and the fact I only discovered the blog by chance two days before the election doesn’t say much. However the fact that McClean has actually utilised social media to interact with constituents does set an example some of his fellow candidates could learn from.  But for a candidate who will find it very difficult to gain enough votes to win back his election nomination fee, I would have thought McClean would have used more of the free social networking tools out there such as twitter.

Verdict:

The ultimate verdict is that all the candidates could do much more to reach out on a local level using social networking. Although Sinn Fein are out in front with honourable mentions for Alliance’s Michael Bower and UUP’s Ross Hussey, social media MUST be used to interact with constituents and not just to publish press releases.

I have updated Pat Doherty and Ciaran McClean’s profiles since this entry was orginally published.

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About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

5 Responses to How well have the West Tyrone candidates used social media?

  1. socialgandhi says:

    AD, Think the biggest lesson here for the local parties is to understand exactly what social media is all about. Looks like most are using it to pump out party messages, that repeat the same old party rhetoric. Social media is a real opportunity for local politicians to connect with their electorate; it’s about conversation not preaching and the party that gets that will really be doing the electorate and themselves a real favour.

  2. AldousDuke says:

    I would completely agree with that point socialgandhi. Although for the likes of a unknown independent, there is the advantage of using social media to broadcast your manifesto. But it should provide an opportunity for undecided voters to access and interact with local candidates.
    Taking this into consideration, it is probably Ross Hussey, Ciaran McClean and Michael Bower who do this to some degree on Facebook.

  3. James O'Kane says:

    I see that Sinn Féin have a facebook account especially for Pat Dohertys E

  4. James O'Kane says:

    I see that Sinn Féin have a facebook account especially for Pat Dohertys Election campaign. I attach the link to view at your leisure:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=116278325050669&ref=ts

  5. AldousDuke says:

    Many thanks for bringing that to my attention James. I have ammended the post accordingly.

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