Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Social media simplicity spurs Chloe Swarbrick's success

If the race for Auckland's mayor was won on social media, Chloe Swarbrick would leave everyone else in her digital dust.

The 22-year-old is the standout performer in the online battle to secure leadership of the council.

Despite entering the contest late as an unknown quantity with a limited budget, she has emerged as a popular candidate in the polls while engagement with her social media channels far surpasses that of her competitors.

In the latest Spinoff poll Swarbrick sits in fourth place on five per cent, one percentage point behind John Palino.

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She has also energised and inspired previously disengaged youth to become interested in local politics.

Swarbrick told the Herald the secret to her social success was simple honesty.

"Given that I initially had no money whatsoever the big questions was how do I get the word out there... It made sense to use social media.

"Everything is coming from an honest place, and without sounding self-aggrandising people seem to engage with that.

"I've found the secret to being liked as a politician is just telling the truth."

Her day job is producing social media strategies for businesses, but she said her campaign breaks all the commonly held rules of the medium, including that brief is better.

"The biggest post I've had so far in terms of engagement was a video that was over eight minutes long. People are engaging with honesty and authenticity more than anything else."

She felt she had been excluded somewhat by the media, and that going online allowed her to counteract that.

"Social media lets me, as it does with all candidates, create our own content. What social media and the internet did was democratise information.

"People can ask questions and get answers in real time. One of the key fundamentals for me is being quite open and honest with it."

Although the majority of her online audience has been young people, Swarbrick said she isn't just aiming to engage one demographic.

"The majority is young people through social because young people are more inclined to use social, but I've had messages from 50 and 60-year-olds saying they're excited by my message.

"They've watched my interviews or have seen me at a debate and they're going to vote for me. Older people tend to be the ones who are sending me the more detailed questions which is brilliant because it allows me to go deeper into my policies."

Swarbrick said young people who have never voted before cited her as their motiviation for enrolling.

At a Social Media Club Auckland event Swarbrick said her campaign was initially 90 per cent social media, but as she got involved in more debates and other media it was now more like 60 per cent.

Not all the online interaction has been positive.

"There's always ad hominem attacks, my favourite one was one guy who said he wanted to run me over with a [Toyota] Prius.

"There's also been a number of comments on my appearance, which I guess is the case with any politician, particularly female politicians, but I've had some really good discussions about my policy.

"People who just want to attack you, you're not going to get anywhere but those people who say my policy is ridiculous, I can back up everything with references and explaining where the idea came from and how it works.

"The difficulty there is how do you go about having that really detailed conversation on the defined platform that social media is."

Casting her eye over the rest of field, Swarbrick said a lack of strong social media engagement inspired her to throw her hat in the ring in the first place.

She said she noticed her effective techniques had since been imitated by her competitors.

"I have noticed there has been a move towards video, and I've seen videos similar to my own.

"I was a bit of a hesistant politician, I obviously entered late into this race and that's because I was waiting for somebody with more experience to do what im doing.

"All of my [social media] language is quite considered about using 'we' and 'you' instead of 'I', and that's definitely a change of language that's happened with the others."

Swarbrick feels her personal approach is the key to outperforming her rivals.

"It's definitely a reflection of how it's being used. I do all of mine social myself, I know Phil [Goff] does respond to some questions himself but he does have a team that does it for him.

"I use it basically as a portal for people to talk to me directly whereas for others it might not be."

Chloe on...

Housing and rates

Endorses the Unitary Plan allowing Auckland to grow both up and out. Improve clarity for people applying during consent processes and move the system online. Rates based on land value alone. Increase council's control of funding from central government.

Transport

Prioritising development of the Rapid Transport Network. Increasing frequency and continuity of public transport on current networks. Rail to Auckland Airport, growth of feeder services to arterial public transport routes, rail on a second harbour crossing, trialling routes destined for rail with busways. Increase walking accessibility. Support investment in cycling, champion a bike-sharing system. Lobby for a removal of compulsory helmet laws.

The environment

Increasing density, moving away from dependency on cars and investing in alternatives. Adoption of green technologies for Council, including electric and hybrid vehicles. Investigating the option to mandate Auckland Transport to only contract with providers with electric/hybrid fleets. Embracing green technology in new developments. No more encroachment of the port. Will acquire new parks. Create one uniform waste system, developing a system that is more eco-friendly.

Art and culture

Give local boards more funding with mandates. Open up and promote accessibility to grants for artists and innovators. Invest in new public artworks, protect funding for libraries. Extension of public transport scheduling to service nightlife. Creation of a Nightlife Advisory Panel with representatives from groups such as police, businesses and musicians.

- NZ Herald

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