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BC Liberal party lead candidate Mike de Jong responses to a question during a breakfast forum with other party candidates in Vancouver January 18, 2011.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

When Tony Roy was interviewed about a political website he operated in 1999, the Christy Clark supporter predicted the still-blossoming Internet would someday play a vital role in detailing a leader's policies and personality.

The reporter conducting the interview scoffed at the notion that the world wide web would ever have the power to influence prospective voters.

Twelve years later, as he heads up Ms. Clark's online campaign for the Liberal leadership, Mr. Roy finds himself in a similar boat.

While the importance of the Internet and a candidate's personal website appear to have long since been determined, Mr. Roy is now spreading the word about social media tools - such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube - and the benefits they bring B.C. politicians who go the extra mile to fully embrace them.

"This is the first election we've had as a party, and also one of the first ones in the country, where there's been a substantial decision that's been put in the hands of people who are online," he said in an interview, adding online voting is also being considered for the next provincial election.

"Because we're at the forefront of something that's probably going to become increasingly important, we're trying to innovate in as many ways as possible."

Ms. Clark's campaign team certainly appears to be leading on the innovation front.

Ms. Clark has a Twitter account all her own with more than 2,000 followers, and another that's feverishly operated by her team. She carries an iPad with her on the road and has uploaded YouTube videos to highlight policy positions. She held a "tweetup" with some of her supporters in Vancouver Tuesday night and her online team also maintains a robust Facebook presence.

Mr. Roy, 34, said such tools provide a new way to open government to the public and bring a younger audience into the political process. But he said the youth vote isn't the only one targeted through social media.

"People who are in remote locations, being able to connect them, make them part of the infrastructure, that's really valuable," he said.

Mr. Roy was diplomatic when asked if Ms. Clark's campaign team had utilized social media better than her leadership competitors. He pointed to fine work done by some of the other camps, including the use of video by Mike de Jong.

One of the clips tweeted by Mr. de Jong's campaign team was an energetic speech he gave at a Build 2030 event last week. Twitter users described the speech as "epic" and Mr. de Jong as a "fireball."

Jodie Lightfoot, director of social media strategy for Mr. de Jong's campaign, said the goal is to make the former attorney-general as accessible as possible.

Mr. de Jong has launched an "Open Mike" mailbag in which he takes questions from members of the public. His Twitter account has just under 800 followers.

While Mr. Roy and Ms. Lightfoot praised the power of social media in politics, some observers said they're far from convinced the tools bring in votes.

Kennedy Stewart, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Public Policy, conducted exit polls after Vancouver's municipal election in November 2008. He found that only two per cent of voters got information through Facebook. (Twitter was not quite the powerhouse then that it is now.) "It was the old tools that made all the difference, billboards, door-knocking," Mr. Stewart said.

He noted U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign was the first where observers said social media played a role. That influence was also mentioned in last year's Calgary mayoral race.

But Mr. Stewart said just because those candidates used social media doesn't mean it had anything to do with their victories. "We've had very little social science research on this."

Mr. Stewart said from a social media perspective, Ms. Clark's campaign has proven to be the most effective. But he was skeptical it would bring in extra votes, particularly since younger voters are notoriously unreliable.

"It really speaks to how out of touch political parties are with younger people. To think you're going to put a Facebook message up or a Twitter message and re-engage somebody, or engage them for the first time ... that's not going to do it."