Overseas Politicians on Twitter: Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi is the Mayor of Calgary, Canada. He is in his second term, having been election in 2010 and reelected in 2013. He is also the first Muslim Mayor of a major city in North America. He used social media extensively in his campaign. He managed to climb from 3rd place at 8% in the polls in September 2010, through to a tie around 30% days out form the election, to a final result of 40% in the election in October. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to look at his campaign, but there was obviously a number of aspects to this surge in popularity, but I suspect social media played a key role in getting the message out to the community.


What is good about Naheed is that it is obvious that what ever he was doing during the campaign, he has continued to do. He hasn’t just seen Twitter as a tool for the campaign, that can be discarded or forgotten about outside of the campaign.


Naheed has over 170,000 followers, but unlike a number of political accounts with that number of followers, Naheed also has a high number of tweets. If you compare him to John Key, only NZ politician remotely close to him in followers, Naheed has sent nearly 11 times as many tweets, even though he has been on Twitter for less time.


Among these tweets, 33% of his last 3200 are retweets. Normally I would consider this a rather high percentage. However, in Naheed’s case, this is balanced by the fact that he is active on Twitter, and he isn’t just trying to fill an otherwise empty time line. What also stands out is the 60% of Naheed’s tweets are replies. This is a great sign that he is actually engaging with people, which is something we should be expecting of all politicians on Twitter. Not saying they should all tweet as much as he does, but if you are on Twitter, you should be engaging.

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Naheed obviously has followers that engage with him as well, the 5th of his 5 most retweeted tweets has 322 retweets, which is around the same number as John Key’s second most reweeted tweet.



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Looking at some of Naheed’s other photos on Twitter, they all have a tone of someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Which can be a tough thing to balance, but the fact that he won reelection would tend to suggest that he has struck the right balance.



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I like how Naheed replies to fun tweets and actually engages with his followers in a way they want to be engaged with. He doesn’t try and force the conversation to go to a particular place. Untitled 8

When you are a high profile politician, and have over 175,000 followers, you have the ability to spread messages far and wide. One thing that you can use this for is to support small start up businesses and charities. Retweeting their tweets is a great way to support them. But at the same time, if it is a business, be careful about any conflict of interest issues. Untitled 9


One way to keep people informed about what you are doing, without filling your feed with staged photos, is to build a following that feels confident to associate with your brand, and tweet images of themselves with you, that you can then retweet. We see the first part of this starting to happen with John Key, however his account seems to be overly cautious when it comes to things like that.  Untitle6


Over all, Naheed has a great Twitter presence, that isn’t just focused on being used as a campaign tool. He is willing to engage with his followers, and those in the community who he can support with his presence. There are many things that New Zealand politicians could learn from Naheed. But the the key lesson they should take away is that Twitter isn’t something you can just play at, it requires a long term, well executed plan to get the best return out of it.