Social media, an indispensable campaign tool for political parties | Elections Quebec 2022

Previously, staff designing web campaigns worked on the periphery. These were people that the campaign teams consulted on a more or less ad hoc basis. Since the 2012 election, they have become key players who have moved closer to the center of decision-making and the development of campaign strategyrelates Thierry Giasson, director and principal researcher of the Political Communication Research Group (GRCP) at Laval University.

Whether it is to promote their policies, attack adversaries, humanize leaders or rally the troops, all the main provincial political parties have a presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And in the past year, most of them have even invested in TikTok, which is experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity, especially among young people.

Aim for the right targets

One of the most important features of social media for political parties is targeted advertising, which allows voters to be reached by several specific criteria, including age, gender, interests and geographic location down to the mile. .

You can directly reach the citizen you want to target more effectively than with traditional advertising, while saving energy and time. It’s political marketing: we will do a market analysis, we choose the message we want to broadcast and we reach our target directly through digital platforms. It can be as specific as targeting the citizens of a given constituency according to their needsillustrates Bader Ben Mansour, strategist in political and public communication and researcher at the GRCP.

Social media advertising tools allow political parties to target voters very precisely. Facebook (pictured) allows people to be targeted based on demographics, interests, behavior and geographic location, among other things.

Photo: Facebook screenshot

Public data from Facebook’s Advertising Library shows, for example, that the Parti Québécois targeted a 100% female audience when it released a video in July (New window) featuring its female contestants.

Each digital platform has its own specificities and its own user bases, which can also influence the type of message that is broadcast and which audiences will be targeted.

Facebook is almost rendered as a mass medium: older people are on it, and it’s part of the daily life of a very large part of the population. Instagram and TikTok, we are no longer in the picture, and it is more frequented by young people. Twitter is more for journalists or people who are more politically involvedsummarizes Bader Ben Mansour.

At the heart of the strategy of small parties

The experts consulted agree that it is not through social networks that electoral campaigns are won: they are only one tool among many others, and television remains the medium of choice for reaching the most large number of voters. However, research on the subject shows that smaller political parties, usually in search of visibility, turn more to social media than established parties to get their message across.

They will tweet a lot and sometimes even say outrageous things to get journalists’ attention and get them talking about their digital actions. Established parties do big tours, but smaller parties will use these networks to hold digital rallies and invite people to participate in the few events they can organize with their more limited resources.analyzes Thierry Giasson.

These small parties generally give their activists greater freedom to campaign on social media and will use the digital space in more innovative ways than established parties, adds Bader Ben Mansour.

If we aspire to power, we are allergic to controversy and we have a more controlled, more unilateral communication. Small parties have nothing to lose. They will make more use of the participatory and interactive features of social networks. »

A quote from Bader Ben Mansour, strategist in political and public communication and researcher at the GRCP

According to the experts consulted, in the case of the 2022 Quebec election, the party that most falls into this category is the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ). The party has never elected members to the National Assembly and has never garnered more than 1.5% of the vote in a general election, but it aims to make gains this year under its new leader, Eric Duhaime.

Mr. Duhaime uses social media wiselyanalyzes Thierry Giasson. He uses it to speak directly to his audience, which is already mobilized on Facebook in other groups, such as right-wing groups or conspiratorial groups. The specialist cites as an example the live broadcasts of Éric Duhaime, during which the leader of the PCQ invites the public to ask him questions in person.

Screenshot of a live broadcast of Éric Duhaime on the Facebook page of the Conservative Party of Quebec.

Conservative leader Éric Duhaime often participates in live broadcasts in which he invites the public to ask him questions in person.

Photo: Facebook Conservative Party of Quebec

In general, the major parties take fewer risks on social networks: the leaders are shown meeting voters, announcements of pledges and new candidates are shared, videos of the leaders are published who speak directly to the camera, we criticize the government’s record. The parties in power, on the other hand, will rather brag about their record.

The fact remains that the leaders of these parties use the web to stage themselves and show their personality: François Legault shares his reading suggestions, while Dominique Anglade, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon show their family a lot.

Screenshot of a Facebook post by Dominique Anglade that shows his family on a bicycle, on vacation.

Dominique Anglade and other party leaders share photos of their family on social media.

Photo: Facebook Dominique Anglade

TikTok, the newcomer

This is the first Quebec election that will also be played on TikTok. The Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire and the Conservative Party all have TikTok accounts, while leaders François Legault, Dominique Anglade and Éric Duhaime also have their own accounts.

The Prime Minister is by far the most popular on the platform specializing in short videos, being followed by more than 100,000 people. QS is second, with some 36,000 subscribers. The PCQ and Dominique Anglade have around 3,500 subscribers each, while Éric Duhaime has close to 2,000. The Parti Québécois finishes dead last with its 700 subscribers.

While Bader Ben Mansour and Thierry Giasson doubt parties can make political gains with TikTok, social media consultant and trainer Alexandre Turcotte believes it can be used to humanize leaders and reach audiences who are not necessarily interested in politics, but who may be challenged by certain social issues.

It’s certainly entertainment in the first place, but we can go there with beautiful images of a chef shaking hands as well as presenting proposals from our program, and there are ways to do it well. But not all parties have understood thisbelieves the one who launched the newsletter TikTok Quebec.

For Alexandre Turcotte, François Legault and QS are the ones who use TikTok the best. Mr. Legault publishes content at a good frequency and presents both lighter things from his daily life and political announcements. Its content is always well done, and it humanizes ithe analyzes.

The social media strategist particularly enjoyed a video offbeat viewed over a million times in which the Prime Minister shows his POV (point of view) of Pope Francis who has just landed in Quebec. Alexandre Turcotte also believes that the videos in which François Legault presents his summer readings are good adaptations of the reading suggestions he regularly publishes on other platforms.

It is Québec solidaire that best respects the codes of TikTok, says Alexandre Turcotte. Authenticity is the key to success on the platform, and QS has understood this well with its videos a little soreslike those where co-spokesperson Manon Massé asks questions to party candidates in Estrie while holding a lavalier microphone, a common practice among tiktok players.

A key feature of TikTok is the ability to create and remix videos from the same sound, and Québec solidaire has created several videos from viral sounds in recent months.

It’s a good balance between participating in trends and presenting the issues. The party makes both light videos and videos in which we present promises, and we often see their two spokespersons as well as their other candidatesobserves Alexandre Turcotte.

It remains to be seen whether an effective election campaign on TikTok, an increasingly important source of information for young people (New window), can be translated into votes. In the last federal election, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh garnered a lot of buzz for his successful TikTok videos, but his party did not significantly improve its score from the previous election.

In our research after the 2012 campaign, the parties told us that if the quality of a digital campaign guaranteed the success of an electoral campaign, it was Québec solidaire and Option nationale that would have won the election.emphasizes Thierry Giasson. Ultimately, you don’t win an election on social media. You win an election by coming into direct contact with people.

Decryptors.  Marie-Pier Elie, Jeff Yates, Nicholas De Rosa and Alexis De Lancer.
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