Twitter and politicians – a Toronto/Lethbridge comparison

As my local municipal election kicks off (vote will be in October 2013, but two candidates have already announced they’re entering the mayoral race) and the Toronto Ford Bros. fiasco continues to dominate mainstream and social media, I got curious about whether – and how – municipal politicians are using Twitter and whether there’s a difference in adoption rates based on size of city. I’ve seen some quite small communities do amazing things with Twitter. And I of course track what the elected municipal officials in my current small city, Lethbridge, AB, do.

After coming across this list of Toronto City Council members (last updated in July 2011), I thought, hmmm – time to get geeky here. First, I found more members of Toronto City Council who had opened Twitter accounts since the list was last updated. Then I counted who still wasn’t using Twitter. Turns out 11/44 members of Toronto’s City Council don’t use Twitter (yet – will they ever?). Then I compared to my local situation, where 5/9 members of Lethbridge City Council actually have Twitter accounts (as does one of the two declared mayoralty candidates for 2013).* Quite a striking difference in the numbers: 75% of Toronto City Council is on Twitter, while only 56% of Lethbridge City Council has a presence. I have yet to track usage and number of followers of the members of Toronto City Council (although I have added them all to a list which will make this possible in the future). I do know that only two members of Lethbridge City Council tweet on a regular basis and have continued to use Twitter between the last election campaign in 2010 and now (Councillors Coffman and Mearns). Several of the Toronto City Councillors who still aren’t on Twitter do have Facebook pages though.

Twitter can be a far more opaque medium than Facebook. But with Facebook only now beginning to introduce hashtags in mid-2013, how many opportunities to engage and connect and to monitor the conversation have the municipal politicians who’ve chosen not to pay attention to Twitter missed? And will there be any correlation between Twitter usage and re-election of incumbents? Time will tell – watch for another post on the subject in October (Lethbridge) and early 2013 (Toronto).

* Let me clarify here. Both the currently declared mayoralty candidates have Twitter accounts. One is currently a member of Council, the other is not. The one who is a member of Council currently has a Twitter account but rarely/barely uses it, and certainly hasn’t used it much in the three years since the last campaign.

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About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Geographically, I get around a bit (at least within Canada). Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
This entry was posted in political accountability, politics in a social media era. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twitter and politicians – a Toronto/Lethbridge comparison

  1. Daryl says:

    For Toronto City Councillor Mary Fragedakis It should be @mfragedakis – @maryfragedakis is her campaign account

  2. ruthseeley says:

    Thanks, Daryl, I’ll adjust my Twitter list.

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