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Nenshi Wins Calgary Crown Using Social Media But Pollsters Lose Using Archaic Polling Techniques

To many media watchers it came as a total shock when Naheed Nenshi was elected mayor of Calgary on Monday, October 18, 2010. For example, in today’s Calgary Herald, Kelly Cryderman calls the win a “surprise victory”.

But should we be surprised?

Reposted from Anduro Technologies blog

Oct 20th, 2010 by jeff

According to Mark Ruthenberg of FoundLocally we shouldn’t. In fact, Ruthenberg places the blame for the “surprise” on the companies doing the polling. He feels that they presented data that was bias and in favor of traditional political campaigns – I agree. The problem, he argues, is that traditional survey techniques rely on standard telephone directories to select a “statistically representative” sample. On Sept 19th, Jason Markusoff writes that the telephone poll conducted by Leger Marketing for the Calgary Herald and CTV News, “shows McIver favoured by 43 per cent of decided voters. Higgins, who left CTV in July for the political hustings, has 28 per cent support. Naheed Nenshi, with eight per cent support, leads a large group of contenders dauntingly behind the leaders.”

But most of Nenshi’s supporters are young and social media savvy. Guess what? They own privately listed mobile phones, not landlines, and as a result they are excluded from most “telephone” surveys. As our social media data shows, Nenshi had broad support as early as Sept 7th. As a result, the opposing candidates were not aware of any threat until the Calgary Herald poll on Oct 13th. See Jason Markusoff’s article, “Herald poll: Three-way dead heat in race for Calgary’s“. By then it was too late for them to react.

Ruthenberg goes on to state that many people thought the biggest indicator of Nenshi’s win was his use of Social Media. According to Ruthenberg, Nenshi’s  real impact was his responsiveness to questions from the electorate and the ability of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to make this overwhelming possible, at a reasonable cost and very quickly. Where the other leading mayoral candidates like Ric McIvor and Barb Higgins failed, was in their lack of interactivity with voters. They both use traditional media to broadcast (“tell”) their policies and opinions. In contrast, Nenshi won based on a campaign of interacting and being responsive to Calgarians. To put it another way, having a website is a good idea but it is still a form of traditional media because the direction of communication is of a broadcast nature. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all provide the ability for two way dialog.

The social media aspect of Nenshi’s campaign allowed him to engage with anyone and extend his reach at much lower return on investment than traditional media. But Social Media without a sincerelyresponsive and engaging candidate is just lip service. The world has changed. In the future electoral candidates will seriously consider the value of using social media as a campaign tool.