Social media was a factor in Alberni’s civic election but it wasn’t the determining factor, says one resident.
Sandy McRuer created an Alberni Municipal Elections 2011 Facebook group for voters to suss out the 23 mayoral and council candidates, discuss issues and ask questions. The site quickly populated with more than 350 members.
Local website alberni.ca also carried news and information about the election.
Candidates who joined the Facebook group disseminated information quickly and engaged with group members in real time.
Informal polls were also held periodically to gauge voter interest and leanings.
But in the end the actual election results differed from the confines of the group; therefore its influence was negligible, McRuer said.
“It didn’t play as big a role as I thought it might,” he said. “The people who used the Facebook group were a far different demographic from those who voted.”
Using Facebook didn’t guarantee a win. Candidates Myron Jespersen and Kevin Wright engaged group members regularly but never won a seat. They also got fewer votes than others who didn’t engage anyone at all.
The group wasn’t without issues. Talk there could get hot and McRuer speculated that this was partly to blame for mayoral candidate Stacey Gaiga dropping out the race.
Some people lied and joined the group using a false identity. “That was disappointing but not something that was unexpected,” McRuer said.
And it became labour intensive for McRuer and three moderators to maintain the group.
It’s the first time social media played a part in an Alberni Valley election so that may have dampened the effect, McRuer said.
“I think there’s room for more of this and it will grow.”
McRuer has shut down the site, but “I’m glad I did it,” he said.