The social revolution

“One year ago, a not-so-little Western town with a reputation for reactionary politics and predictable voting patterns made history. Did you notice?” That’s how I start the October 2011 Last Word, The Social Revolution. It’s really a  “nyah-nyah-nyah Calgary elected Naheed Nenshi and you didn’t” piece, with a thin veneer of “and this is why social networking matters” painted on top.

Favourite part (full text follows):

Naheed Nenshi’s election finally converted me to the evil beast. If you keep and treasure your back issues of Lexpert and have several hours to kill, you will find me dissing Facebook, Twitter et al. (And, born-again networker though I now am, I still confess: getting Tweets from a law firm is my idea of, if not quite hell, then definitely purgatory. And I don’t think I’ve been sufficiently evil this lifetime to deserve that. But back to my conversion…)

PS Nenshi’s Nenshi for mayor site is still up. But to really get to know him you have to follow him on Twitter, @nenshi.

NENSHI'S

Last Word: The Social Revolution
By Marzena Czarnecka

One year ago, a not-so-little Western town with a reputation for reactionary politics and predictable voting patterns made history. Did you notice?

If you’re a Calgarian or one of those rare politically obsessed folks who pays attention to municipal politics in places other than your local centre-of-the-universe, you probably think you know what I’m talking about. Yes, one year ago, Calgary elected a Muslim (gasp!), brown (gasp!), Harvard-educated (gasp!), young (38 is young; articling students, you can stop smirking now!), unconnected to the moneyed-lobbying-old boys’ network-whatever-passes-for-Establishment-in-Cowntown mayor. The rest of the world―well, the dozen or so political commentators across Canada who pay attention to these things, and one crazy extra-reactionary goof down South―were astounded.

So you could be forgiven to think that’s what I’m talking about. And I guess I am, sort of―although to be precise, the anniversary I’m celebrating this October isn’t who got elected on that history-making night in Calgary, but how―and why―he won. And what it meant to my views on social media. (Of course. I’m selfish. We’ve established that a few years ago, right?)

Naheed Nenshi’s election finally converted me to the evil beast. If you keep and treasure your back issues of Lexpert and have several hours to kill, you will find me dissing Facebook, Twitter et al. (And, born-again networker though I now am, I still confess: getting Tweets from a law firm is my idea of, if not quite hell, then definitely purgatory. And I don’t think I’ve been sufficiently evil this lifetime to deserve that. But back to my conversion…)

Nenshi and his advisory team (which included, and still does, at least one stellar Calgary corporate lawyer―you know who I’m talking about) will tell you that they won the Calgary mayoralty by running “a campaign in full sentences,” and by being the only option that offered real, researched policies. Ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. The policy/platform side of the campaign was, I’ll grant you, pretty good. That’s why I voted for Nenshi. (So I tell myself, because I like to pretend I’m an informed voter. Probably I voted for him out of sheer Calgarian orneriness… or because the old-boys-network that wanted to elect that other guy―you know, the shoo-in who lost?–ain’t the only network with clout in town. But back to my conversion…)

But my father―he voted for Nenshi cause I told him to. Never outright, of course, because that wouldn’t be proper. (You don’t tell someone who emigrated from behind the Iron Curtain how to vote. You just don’t.) But see, my dad’s on my Facebook, and first I posted this one link, and then this other video, and then changed my profile photo to Nenshi purple…

Now, I’ve told you how I voted―let me ‘fess this up too: I was no campaign volunteer or activist. There was no Nenshi for mayor sign in the weedpatch in front of my house. In fact, in the early days of the campaign, I was leaning towards another horse (who else, another former Calgary corporate lawyer. In another confession, I’ve already told you―I’m a corporate-lawyer groupie. It’s sad, but none of us are perfect). But this friend and that one got roped into the purple camp early on, and they posted first this video, and then that link, and then this one… and I clicked, and I read, and I liked, and I shared… (No, being a corporate-lawyer groupie is not sin enough to warrant getting Tweets from law firms. Go away.)

And Nenshi asked me to join his network on LinkedIn, and be one of his 10,000 friends on Facebook, and, you know, before I knew it…

OK, fine, I didn’t vote for him because of his awesome policies. A confession of a conversion should be relatively frank: I was totally suckered in. I was blown away by the social media strategy. I watched it unfold first with skepticism, then with curiosity, finally with the ever-mounting confidence that OMG, we were going to win! If you were following the municipal campaign via social media, as I was―there was no other candidate.

Post-election, Nenshi has continued to use social media to communicate with his electorate. He’s on my LinkedIn feed, and he’s a Tweeting-machine. But the campaign strategy he and his team put into place―a campaign strategy that they will write books (e-books?) about―hasn’t yet, as far as I know (and frankly, municipal politics of places other than my centre-of-the-universe kinda bore me), been successfully replicated.

That’s because it isn’t enough to use social media. You’ve got to have a reason―a message worth hearing, one that resonates, one that people want to hear. That’s why most law firm and lawyer Tweets, LinkedIn updates and Facebook status updates are, even to a born-again networker like me, purgatory. Inane, irrelevant communications that make it look like you’re working the network, but what you’re actually doing is boring it. To death.

But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. I bet you Nenshi’s first Tweets were really lame too…

Marzena Czarnecka knows all about purgatory because she’s a lapsed Catholic. She doesn’t Tweet, and she’s not much of a follower, but she likes LinkedIn and Facebook a lot, and is betting on the future success of Google+.

Late 2012 update: I’ve been slowly converting to Twitter.

Thomson Reuters article record.

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