Martine Rolls: Social media role growing in elections

By Martine Rolls

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Social media is being well used by candidates in the local body elections.
Social media is being well used by candidates in the local body elections.

Have you sent or handed in your orange envelope with voting papers yet or are you leaving it to the last minute?

The candidates who use Facebook are urging us all to vote. Fleur Harawira, who is contesting the Otumoetai/Pyes Pa Ward and gets a lot of positive feedback from our community, posted the following last week after participating in a public meeting.

"One of the other candidates said to me tonight that these meetings won't matter now because they are too late. He seems to think those that vote have already done so. If that is the case then why would people want to come? Can you like my comment if you haven't yet voted? Just so I can see how true his statement was."

Richard Moore, who's keen to become mayor and also stands in the Mount/Papamoa Ward, posted on Monday: "I've just seen the current return figures for voting forms. So far only about 8 per cent have been sent back in. Come on guys this is really important. The last thing we want is to again have people elected by a minority of voters. You won't get change by not voting."

I have a fair idea on who gets my vote, but I haven't fully made up my mind just yet so the papers are still sitting unticked on my coffee table. No need to rush these things, as long as I don't forget. In these last few weeks, things are mostly civil but I've also seen the claws come out and find that hugely entertaining.

Something started on Facebook this weekend that made me chuckle. It was triggered by an advertorial in the papers in which property developer Bob Clarkson put forward the candidates that he supports, along with his ideas. At least it was clearly stated that this was an advertorial, but it sparked reactions.

Sandy Scarrow asked on the Facebook page Matt Cowley for Tauranga: "Matt, an endorsement from Bob Clarkson makes me think you support full on development of the outskirts of Tauranga City. Our economy is very much reliant on the $80 million odd from the kiwifruit industry and other land-based activities. What is your view on SmartGrowth and the protection of high value land around the Western Bay of Plenty?"

Matt, who's standing for Tauranga at Large and has used Facebook and his website wisely from the moment he started his campaign, was quick to reply. Before answering her question with a focus on the city's growth and transportation, he said: "Thanks for your message Sandy. I was as surprised as anyone reading Bob's advertorial on Saturday. I've never met, nor spoken to, Bob."

For the record, Matt Cowley also posted a photo of the page on one of the publication's Facebook pages with this comment: "I would like the public to know that the opinions expressed in Bob Clarkson's advertorial are those of Bob's only. I have never met or communicated with Bob. I was not consulted at any stage in regards to the advertorial."

Clayton Mitchell, another one of Bob's picks, said: "Neither was I mate but take it as a compliment because people want you in this council which would be great to see." A comment he ended with a smiley face. A few hours later, it seemed like everyone in Tauranga was talking about it on Facebook.

Then there is the page Save Tauranga set up by candidates Gail MacIntosh, Mike Baker and Dr Bev Edlin. Of course it is good to see candidates use social media to spread their message but, in my humble opinion, this alliance could have used the powerful platform called Facebook so much better.

The basics of a social media strategy don't go unnoticed, but the execution is rather poor so I doubt it will be very effective for them.

But the best was still to come. It came in my mailbox this weekend: a cheaply designed, photocopied, badly cut half A4 adorned with clip art images (yes, there are people that still use it). Someone made a list of people he or she thinks we should not vote for, and backed this up by making some very bold statements.

He or she deposited these homemade flyers in letterboxes all around Welcome Bay and in Mount Maunganui as well.

What this person wrote made me laugh out loud as it was pretty ridiculous, but I couldn't find a name on the paper and that was to say the least disappointing. Mister or lady, if you have such strong opinions and go through all this trouble to spread it around town, don't you think you should be brave enough to put your name and face to it?

Without it, your piece of paper reeks of a cowardly smear campaign and loses all credibility.

Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist - www.sweetorange.co.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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