T. Carter Ross
Election day has past ... and my friend won. I also helped a second candidate in a more competitive Ward race, also using Facebook as the primary web presence, and he win a head-to-head race with an incumbent. Both races were won more with foot leather than social media. In friend's race, he ended up with 62 likes -- not all from within the Ward, however. Average weekly seemed to be about 150 until mid-April and by election day we were reaching over 700 per week (again most not in the electorate) with small stories about what he'd been hearing from people while knocking on doors. He ended up winning 177-47 (and one write-in) against an opponent who wasn't the most active until the last week before the election had who had almost no online presence.
The other City Council campaign I worked on got a late start, launching right at the filing deadline against an incumbent. We figured this would be a close race. My candidate was well known in the city but among long-time residents could be polarizing. We opted for Facebook as the primary web presence for some of the same reasons as the other candidate: fast, easy, didn't have to design much, as well as ease to update and to share. The page launched and in the first week reached over 800 people; we didn't post as regularly as we should have, however, and the reach dropped to under 100. We did end up with 47 likes, mostly from with the Ward, while the incumbent only had 14 likes on his FB page and no other web presence. An ill-advised mailer by the incumbent, and a strong response on a local listserv from my candidate's backers (letting the candidate stay out of the fray), however, helped draw a lot of people in to the Facebook page and by election day we were back up to a reach of 700+. The other candidate basically imploded, and we ended up winning 281-128.
Lessons learned: For a small city election, Facebook seemed to work reasonably well as the primary Web presence for both of my candidates. I need to check with some of the winners in the other Wards who did use traditional websites, but it looks like our engagement was higher with FB pages even though the depth of information wasn't there. Ultimately, FB didn't win the campaigns, but it did help in keeping in touch with potential voters and spreading information through their networks. For a higher office, where there would be more need to layout more information than might work in FB notes, a full website would seem to be a must, but for a local office it seems like it might be up to the task.