Update 21 Sept 08: NDP graduates head of the class. They launched "The Orange Room" - a online hub for user-generated content about the NDP.
Update 15 Sept 08: There have, as you can imagine, been changes to these sites and activities since this post a week ago. I've added some notes below each party. Plus, I've created a page that has all the socmed links for all the parties plus some other coverage of social media and Canadian politics.
Apparently we're headed for a national election here in Canada on Oct 14 (is it amusing anyone else as much as it is me that ours has been called and will be held before the US one is over?). I forget where I heard it first yesterday that Jack Layton from the NDP and Stephen Harper are both twittering.
I checked out their sites to find out their Twitter IDs (actually, to see if they had even posted them on their sites) and made a few interesting observations about social media/social network icons on their sites (note - you can click through to bigger versions of the screenshots on Flickr):
Has 1/2 a dozen places staked out on social media properties and uses the small square icons to represent each. Icons are above the fold.
B+ A-. Nice coverage on the all the "major" socmed, including a FriendFeed account which would let me subscribe to one big feed of conservative goodness. Icons are easy to find and recognize. If I were a first time visitor, though, I wouldn't be sure if this site is about Harper or Dion. And no RSS feed button. Update: The Conservatives have added their Digg account to their homepage which is a great way to share Conservative-positive stories with other Conservatives. It's a great addition to the socmed arsenal b/c you don't have to have a blog - just another stream where you can share stories and hope that your constituents pick up on them. The Conservatives move to an A-.
Has coverage on arguably two biggest soc networks (for a Canadian audience). Uses nice big logo buttons for targets. Above the fold.
B- B+. Easy to find and you're using recognizable logos. But you need to be on Twitter. Even if Twitter is just a fad - for this election - get on it! No faster way to get the message out there, plus there are enough journos on there that it matters. A link to feeds at the bottom of the page, but no icon. Update: Liberals have added Twitter, MySpace and Flickr to their networks. Very nice. Raising the mark to a B+.
Side note - the Flickr account is so important! Putting up lots of high rez photos that you would actually like to see used in stories and blog posts - you can't beat that! Political parties should also learn to use a Creative Commons license.
C+ A- A. Yay, Twitter. And it's integrated into your site so content is fresh. Nice one. But why, WHY have you washed the Facebook logo in NDP orange? Hard to recognize if I'm scanning your site for it. And why no YouTube? And why no feed icon? Heck - that one IS actually orange. And your "join" icon looks like the MSN icon. Do not appropriate icons and reassign meanings to them. It's semantically confusing for web nerdz.
Update: The NDP get the biggest grade increase! They still have the TERRIBLE orange-washed Facebook logo, BUT, they have added the regular icons for their presence on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and FriendFeed. I cannot stress how important FriendFeed is because, at the very least, it aggregates all your feeds into one place! Great job, NDP! They are pulling in all their socmed feeds plus their press release feed.
Another update: The NDP launched the Orange Room. Definitely moves the bar for user engagement online in Canadian politics!
F D+. Nothing. No feeds. No Twitter. No Facebook. No video. NOTHING! If you want to be considered a real party, LOOK like a real party online. (Personal note - this one really makes me frustrated b/c I like the Greens and I really like Elizabeth May and it SUCKS that they aren't using socmed more. Sigh.) I did consider giving them a D- because they have a great URL - green.ca - but changed my mind.
Update: Elizabeth May is now Twittering, but to no real effect. She isn't "following" anyone on Twitter. She (or more likely, her staff) really don't get social media - or at least certain aspects of it. The CRAZY thing is, she won the right to participate in the debates through incredible social media communication. One powerful Facebook group. Yes, she had a petition website which was also very important, but the word spread like wildfire via social media. Greens grade goes to D+. But again, just barely - they aren't publicizing the Twitter account on their website.
F C-. Rien! (Oh, Gilles, your blue eyes .. they are so captivating ...) RIEN!! The Bloc apparently isn't publicizing their socmed activities either. Le sigh.
Update: Gilles is Twitter in both French and English - thanks to a request from Buzz Bishop (power of social media at work!). They are still not promoting the Twitter address on the Bloc site but they move up to passing because they are using the power of social media.
Oh, I'd also like to point out that it isn't just enough to HAVE a Twitter account, you have to be paying attention :) I followed both Harper (on both the official PM twitter account AND on his "personal" account) and Layton. I followed them both at the same time. Harper followed me back within 5 minutes: Layton took 19 minutes longer.
It will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few weeks. The nature of our election cycle here in Canada means that people need to get on all this NOW. Which is actually problematic because they should have been building these networks and relationships before it came down to crunch time!