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Social media key in mayoralty race

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 07:12 22/06/2013

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Christchurch's mayoralty race may come down to a battle of the Facebook pages.

Neither Bob Parker nor Lianne Dalziel say they have a party machine behind them to mobilise voters, so both will be relying heavily on social media to get their policy views across and to engage with voters.

With one quick post on their Facebook pages or a well-timed tweet, they can reach out to more potential voters than they could ever hope to reach in weeks of door-knocking and street corner meetings.

"Being accessible and visible is very important in the run-up to an election and social media offers this in bucketloads," says Canterbury University associate professor of marketing Ekant Veer.

"Social media offers a great platform to get short policy snippets out to a large audience and for that audience to engage back with you.

"If you look at John Key's Facebook page, his PR team keep updates short and sweet, but there are often lots of comments (both negative and positive). This shows engagement with your electorate and that you're having an impact with what you're saying."

And the bonus of social media is that candidates do not need big budgets to use it effectively, although it does take "knowledge, time, and effort".

"You need to know what the people care about; you need to put regular updates about things people care about, and you need to continuously look to improve how you engage with people online," Veer says.

"If you use your Facebook page or Twitter account just to advertise your ideas to people, you'll always be seen as an advertisement, but if you engage and relate to people online, you'll be able to bring yourself closer to those you wish to lead."

Parker and Dalziel can spend no more than $70,000 on their election campaigns under the 2001 Local Electoral Act.

Parker spent $60,000 on his last campaign but has indicated he plans to spend far less this time, while Dalziel has been cagey about how much money she has to throw at her bid.

After the election both candidates will have to file a return detailing exactly how much they spent and who made donations to their campaigns.

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- The Press

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