Harrietstown Supervisor candidates Tom Catillaz (D) and Bob Bevilacqua (R).
Campaign officials for the two candidates running for Harrietstown town supervisor this fall have each launched “Friends of” pages on Facebook and hope the social networking platform will win over voters come Election Day, Nov. 6.
The Valley News asked campaign managers for Bob Bevilacqua (R) and Tom Catillaz (D) how important Facebook is to their election strategies.
Republican campaign manager Ray Scollin gave communications specialist Keith Wells a chance to respond for Bevilacqua, and Democratic campaign manager Chad McCarthy responded for Catillaz.
Both candidates are no stranger to politics. Catillaz is currently a trustee for the village of Saranac Lake and is the former mayor. And Bevilacqua is currently a Harrietstown town councilman and a former member of the Saranac Lake Central School Board.
Both have personal Facebook pages, yet they haven’t been updated much since the campaign kicked into high gear.
Voters can choose a side and “like” the Friends of Tom Catillaz or the Friends of Bob Bevilacqua Facebook pages, or they can choose both to stay informed about each candidate’s campaign. Or they can simply watch from the sidelines and not commit to a like.
As of the morning of Sept. 11, Bevilacqua had 81 likes and Catillaz had 140.
How important is Facebook to the campaign and why?
Bevilacqua campaign: Essential. Today a campaign cannot be run successfully without FB. In fact, social media in general has become a requisite for marketing/campaigning. Social media and FB are popular sources of where people find their news. It is everywhere and everyone is connected to it. Facebook builds basic recognition among people, and recognition builds trust. This provides a significant opportunity for a visitor to build this trust by engaging directly with the subject of a FB page.
When done right, information is not just posted but, more importantly, it permits immediate response! In turn, the response elevates the candidate as real and familiar. Once a response is forthcoming, real communication has begun and such online communication permits others to be invited to join in. This communication then becomes dinner conversation or water cooler talk, thus spreading the word to a wider reach than can be attained by other more traditional media.
Catillaz campaign: It’s hard to quantify the importance of Facebook in Tom Catillaz’s campaign. We see Facebook as being a useful tool for getting Tom’s message out in a clear, positive and dynamic manner. However, while Facebook is important, it doesn’t replace tried and true political methods such as door-to-door canvassing. Voters demand and deserve personal contact with a candidate to believe that they indeed have a voice. It’s through these efforts that Tom has gained a better understanding of just how frustrated Harrietstown voters are with ever-increasing taxes, huge deficits, stagnant growth and overall inaction that is emblematic of his opponent’s track record.
Do you think the Like count is any indication as to how your candidate will do in the election?
Bevilacqua campaign: No, not entirely. For the most part, the social media permits the spread of messages quickly; establishes calls to action; and encourages dialogue. The like count permits you to estimate positive or negative interest in the subject matter of the moment. Since the dialogue is in both directions, both the candidate and the visitor are able to familiarize themselves with the issues. Most important: One is not asking for votes via FB, one is asking for a connection.
Catillaz campaign: The “like” count is not necessarily an indicator of who will win the election. However, the like count has provided us with some positive feedback with regard to the level of support for Tom Catillaz and his platform. While Tom appreciates the number of likes he continues to receive, he realizes that hard work, experience, and an in-depth understanding of the issues is what really wins elections.
What is your Facebook strategy and goals and what are you uploading?
Bevilacqua campaign: Measurements are key to the strategy for all the reasons indicated previously! Posting time is critical. Posting should optimally occur when visitors are online; not when they are sleeping. We upload the issues; the position; the participation; the character. Agendas cannot be made up; personas cannot be faked. That phoniness will become readily transparent to the visitor community and the FB page will simply fall flat. Remember, the goal is establishing trust through connectivity.
Catillaz campaign: The most important goal of using Facebook in Tom Catillaz’s political campaign is to convey his message on key issues effecting Town of Harrietstown voters. Facebook, directly and indirectly, has afforded Tom the opportunity to outline his plan for; the town business park, reducing taxes by adhering to the 2 percent tax cap, supporting the Chamber of Commerce, encouraging business development, and introducing a fiscally responsible solution for the airport. Facebook allows Tom the ability to keep these important issues, which are clearly important to the voters, at the forefront of debate.
What can Facebook do that other marketing avenues cannot? Advantages?
Bevilacqua campaign: FB is more tangible than Twitter, and easier for the layman to navigate. It also provides its own analytics. It cannot be stressed enough the significance of tracking in any marketing strategy. FB is familiar which translates to trust. FB in marketing creates what is called “The Amplify Effect,” meaning it keeps the issues and campaign hot in between debates and publications. It is continually accessible, anywhere, anytime.
Catillaz campaign: Facebook has allowed Tom to engage directly with voters who share his passion for responsible local government. Also, it’s hard to ignore the cost benefits of social media when compared with traditional news outlets. However, one downside to using social media, is that it’s much more time consuming when compared with traditional media.