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We’ve officially entered the dog days of summer.

How can we be certain?

Aside from the oppressive heat, at no other time would the provincial Liberals’ attempt to manufacture outrage over PQ leader Pauline Marois’ alleged purchasing of Facebook fans get much media attention.

That said, the episode is revealing because it suggests both the PQ and Liberals lack sophistication when it comes to social media.

As a marketing channel, social media is no longer new. It has played a significant role in myriad political campaigns, and helped propel Barack Obama to the US Presidency in 2008.

Let’s look at the PQ’s perspective on the issue.

If Marois did, as alleged, pay people to ‘like’ her page, what exactly was her logic? Did she, or her party, think that voters might be swayed by her Facebook fan count?

They’d have to be pretty apathetic, stupid people.

Since the mid 2000’s, as social media has evolved, marketers have come to realize that fan/follower counts mean less than originally thought.

What matters is not only the sheer number of ‘likes’, but how a page is administered and the manner in which a brand engages fans to drive organizational goals.

Yes, size matters, but there’s much more to it.

Again assuming that Marois’ fans were bought, does the PQ realize that these followers are not that likely to “buy” the product (i.e. – vote for the party)?

An survey in late 2011 found that 47% of people who ‘like’ brand pages reported that Facebook had “no influence” on purchase intent.

Perhaps money is better spent on cultivating existing advocates who actually care about the party and its message.

As to the Liberals, have they not clued in to the fact that most brands “pay” for fans via Facebook ads and/or incent people to ‘like’ a brand page with exclusive content?

Yes, ads and access to exclusive content are a bit different than what they’re accusing Marois of, but not substantively.

Would you care if Liberal allegations about Marois were true? I doubt it.

Certainly though, their attacks including this video, are juvenile.

As a former federal political staffer, this sort of manufactured drive-by looks like the work of an opportunistic “strategist” trying to create news during a slow period of the year.

So what does this episode really reveal?

While social media has played a major role in US and other segments Canadian politics since at least 2008, Quebec’s political class has a less sophisticated approach to this not so new channel.

Stay tuned. More social media gaffes from our less than cutting edge political parties look likely during the upcoming election campaign.

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