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Campaign signs go up for B.C. Liberal candidate for Port Moody Dennis Marsden in the riding March 22, 2012. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Campaign signs go up for B.C. Liberal candidate for Port Moody Dennis Marsden in the riding March 22, 2012. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Social media

The writ has dropped. Start tweeting! Add to ...

The by-elections have just been announced – but the Twitter accounts are in full swing.

Premier Christy Clark on Thursday called by-elections for the districts of Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope.

None of the six candidates in the two ridings captured the long-awaited announcement in its exclamation-point glory like Liberal @LaurieThroness: “Ready … set … go!!!! The writ has officially dropped. Mark April 19th on your calendar! #Chilliwack #hopebc #bcpoli”

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Of course, just having a Twitter account is very different from using it well. Only two of the candidates have tweeted more than 100 times. One of the six, Conservative John Martin, or @Martin4MLA, used his account on the micro-blogging site for the first time Thursday.

Christopher Schneider, assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, doesn’t expect social media to play much of a role in the by-elections.

“I think, at this point, it’s more important to just have a Twitter account so you have a Twitter presence as a politician. It makes you seem more hip, or cool, or with it,” he said in an interview. “Unless you’re really active with those accounts, I don’t think it’s going to matter much.”

Mr. Schneider defined being active as posting often, and taking questions from the public. Only @dennis_marsden, Liberal candidate for Port Moody-Coquitlam, appears to have met those requirements.

Mr. Marsden, who’s posted 150-plus times, believes Twitter is an important element of a campaign – akin to door-knocking. In an area with as many condominiums as B.C.’s South Coast, reaching voters online might be easier than reaching them at their home.

Christine Clarke, Conservative candidate for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said her campaign will utilize social media as much as it can. Her website already features a video blog.

Ms. Clarke said she doesn’t want to tweet just for the sake of it, but would welcome whatever policy discussions the 140-character format allows.

Liberal supporters have questioned the choice of Ms. Clarke as a candidate, arguing the similarity of her name to that of the Premier’s could confuse voters.

Ms. Clarke laughs off the charge. After all, as her website boldly proclaims, “A vote for the BC Conservatives is a vote for eliminating duplication …”

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