Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Watson vs. O'Brien: The Ottawa Mayoral Race on Social Media

I know it seems like the campaigning has been going on for a month (at least), but the Ottawa mayoral race officially starts tonight. At this point, it’s really a two-man race between former mayor and Ontario MPP Jim Watson and our current mayor, businessman-turned-city-politician Larry O’Brien.

Watson is kicking his campaign off tonight at Tudor Hall on North Bowesville Rd., while O’Brien will be getting his re-election campaign started at the Heart & Crown in the Irish Village (Clarence St.).

Recent polls show that Watson is the man to beat, but we’re a long way away from October 25. I was curious to see how the two heavyweights were doing on the social media front thus far. Let’s have a look:


Watson’s Facebook page is a little more dynamic than O’Brien’s. He’s got more pictures up, and messages from supporters taking up space on his wall.

O’Brien’s wall is mostly filled with posts coming through from his campaign twitter account. The page doesn’t seem to be monitored by O’Brien or anyone else on his campaign. In fact, the last post is from a Jim Watson fan. It reads: “there is no way shape or form you should ever get re elected. You will run this city into the ground. Your no tax platform years ago was a lie, and your over spending and raises are absurd.” Ouch. That’s not a good first impression for someone trying to find O’Brien on Facebook. Hopefully someone on the campaign will take care of that soon.

Jim Watson “likes”: 1,181

Larry O’Brien “likes”: 139

Advantage: Jim Watson


It’s night and day here for the two candidates. Watson is doing all the right things on twitter – getting a conversation started, responding to people, showing a personal side, and reaching out to his Ottawa-based supporters. Look at these two tweets:

“@DBast Yes, it's me. On my blackberry and on my computer. If you still want to volunteer, come to my office and we can set that up!”

“@k8brownlee Thank you! I've lost 9 pounds canvassing as a matter of fact!”

O’Brien is doing a lot of the wrong things on his twitter page. Nearly every post is just a link to information you can find elsewhere. There’s no conversation going on here, and no personality shining through. If people aren’t engaged, they won’t follow. Here’s the last tweet from the O’Brien campaign:

“Latest newsletter from Larry O'Brien Campaign via #constantcontact

See what I mean?

LarryObrien2010 followers: 196
JimWatsonOttawa followers: 1472

Advantage: Watson

Photo Hosting Pages

Both Watson’s and O’Briens campaign websites are using outside hosting sites to showcase pictures. O’Brien’s using Picasa, Watson is on Flickr.

O’Brien has one album up from June 29, 2010.

Watson’s Flickr Page already has a ton of election-targeted photos. The first one is Jim positioned perfectly in the centre of a photo taken at the Capital Pride Parade (Aug. 30). In the foreground is a Jim Watson for Mayor sign, in the background is a clear blue sky and the Parliament buildings. It’s a bit staged for my liking, but that’s ok. The Flickr page also has a photo of Jim helping a supporter drive in the “First Lawn Sign of the Campaign”.

Advantage: Watson

Watson is dominating on the social media front, and it’s clear that he sees a lot of benefit in it. Maybe his supporter base is part of a more "online" demographic, but I do think that O’Brien should exert a bit more effort to have a more robust online presence. I’ll check in again mid-campaign to see if things have evened out a bit. Stay tuned for that.