BitDepth 730 - May 11

Politicians take their campaigns to Facebook in force.
The virtual campaign trail

There’s a campaign being waged for young minds on Facebook that’s worth taking a look at.

Closing a long speech at Mid-centre Mall as the UNC-COP coalition party presented its candidates, Kamla Persad-Bissessar proudly spoke of the million plus visitors that had been logged at her website,
What she neglected to mention, perhaps because she didn’t fully realise it, is that doesn’t exist, at least not as I write this. That link resolves to the Opposition Leader’s Facebook fan page, as does

In a surprising move, the PNM and the coalition party have switched the emphasis of their campaigning for the 2010 election from the open protocols of the Internet to the privately owned domain of Facebook.
There are good reasons to pursue Facebook as a strategy. More than 150,000 people identify themselves as ‘Trini’ on the social networking site and it is the number one destination for local web surfers according to web traffic analysis site Alexa.

The PNM (, UNC ( and COP ( all maintain official party websites, but they are all broadcast sites; none of the official party websites support even a simple blog or commenting system.
Social media tools offer many methods to keep up with the speedy updates that this brisk campaign encourages, but the emphasis remains on Facebook as a medium for interaction.

Persad-Bissessar switched her active Twitter presence from a shortlived effort at @kamlapbissessar which registered its last tweet (of six) in September 2009. That page suggests a brief trial of the service, with just 35 followers and one tweep following. The new presence, @kamlaUNC went live on April 29 and while it’s livelier, it doesn’t seem to reflect any real commitment to Twitter as a way to reach prospective voters.
The Opposition Leader’s presence on Facebook is far livelier, more frequent status updates and some vigorous commentary on the postings.

The PNM presence on Twitter is also perfunctory. Listed under the name Patrick Manning, @meetmanning began on April 27, has logged 100 followers with 103 following and posted 41 tweets.
The Facebook page for the MeetManning campaign has an attractive splash welcome, but the status updates are sluggish, though they attract spirited comments on par with Persad-Bissessar’s page.

Both Facebook pages make minimal use of multimedia, there’s more photography, video and reading material on each of the main parties’ home pages, but efforts to link that material to social media distribution methods are perfunctory.
It’s worth noting that the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Facebook fan page and the Meetmanning campaign presence are both anchored on personality promotion, though the voices of both leaders are notably muted in favour of careful speech excerpts and formal, well-vetted announcements.

There’s little to engage or discuss in the deliberately bland statements that populate these pages, so it remains unclear, beyond the photos of the candidates, what they hope to reveal about their subjects.
This late in the campaign, the emphasis remains squarely on Facebook. The MeetManning campaign maintains a web presence at, and the official URL ( promoted on the campaign trail also points to that website. 

Focused almost entirely on the presence of the Prime Minister, it’s the best implemented of the party websites, but it isn’t really a party website, it’s very much a personality focused site. There’s an option to submit questions directly to the PNM political leader. There’s no indication on the site, however, that questions have been submitted or responses given.

The parties are chasing the virtual hotspots, but missing opportunities for real communication on these networks, and developing web-based sounding boards with their publics that might resonate beyond May 24.

Web statistics on May 05 23,112 fans, first status update, March 06 3012 fans, first status update, April 26 103 followers, 104 following, 64 tweets 79 followers, 84 following, 13 tweets 103 followers, 43 followers, 29 tweets 6730 fans, first status update: March 21 (satirical posts): 113 following, 297 followers, 579 tweets 25,897 fans, first status update: April 22
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