Manitoba has 57 MLAs. Eleven of them seem to be active on Twitter. Combine all of their followers – including those of the party leaders – and you’ll get a total that’s thousands behind the fan base of a local radio DJ, and not even in the same ballpark as at least one Winnipeg Jet.
Then there’s Facebook, the granddaddy of the current crop of social media sites. You might think those elected officials would jump at the chance to build an audience there, but nearly a third of them don’t turn up in a Facebook search. Of those who do, just a smattering have a sizeable number of friends and fans, and most have fewer than 200.
Yes, expecting a local politician to be as popular as Evander Kane or Ace Burpee might be a stretch. And yes, follower numbers don't tell the whole story. An audience in the tens of thousands will still tune out a stream of tweeted press releases, just as a politician’s best Facebook efforts will fall flat if nobody’s reading.
But those numbers do give us a sense of how much thought Manitoba MLAs have put into social media. In a lot of cases, the answer seems to be very little.
That’s not to say nobody’s trying. Manitoba has yet to see a Naheed Nenshi-like Twitter celeb, but some MLAs are at least being personable and engaging: Charleswood MLA Myrna Driedger (@myrnabdriedger), Southdale MLA Erin Selby (@erinselby) and Fort Rouge MLA Jennifer Howard (@howard_jennifer) come to mind.
Newly elected Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief had a slick Facebook landing page set up for his campaign, which included a fun animated video and a feature that let supporters take branded photos at his campaign headquarters to use as their Facebook profile pictures. With a fan base of 225, it’s hard to say whether the extra work played a part in his win, but it's more of an online effort than many candidates made.
Anyone conspicuously absent from that list? (Or does the idea of following a politician online leave a bad taste in your mouth?)
A side note: A dozen or so NDP MLAs have placeholder Twitter accounts: blocked accounts in their names with no photos and no tweets. NDP communications director Nammi Poorooshasb said those names were reserved by the party for use if and when an MLA wants to give Twitter a try.