There may be no door-knockers or election signs in sight yet, but with months to go ahead of the federal election in November, there is evidence that the war for votes has already started online with a battle for likes.

Recent data provided to CTV News by Facebook Canada show all of the country’s major parties are quietly working to woo voters online. 

While some parties stand out as winners in certain measures of Facebook popularity, it appears that all are in the running in at least some respects.

“There’s good news for all three political parties,” Kevin Chan, head of public policy at Facebook Canada, told “Facebook is where Canadians go to discover what matters to them the most. The data that we’re releasing really speaks to how Canadians are currently interacting with their political parties and party leaders.”

The insights from Facebook are based on page interactions tracked over a three-month period from March to June. Interactions refer to likes, shares and comments on a page.

Canadians ‘like’ Trudeau

Party Leader Pages Likes

(Click to view a larger version of the image)

According to the data, Canadians are more likely to friend Justin Trudeau than any other federal party leader.  Trudeau’s Facebook page accounts for 37 per cent of all interactions with federal party leaders on the social networking site.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s page comes a distant second at 24 per cent, while Stephen Harper’s page nabs 20 per cent.

However Mulcair appears to have a more active audience than either Trudeau or Harper.

“He boasts among the three main political parties, the audience that is most engaged,” Chan says. “What we mean by that is when you look at an average user who interacts with his page, that person tends to interact more often.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sees 12 per cent of the attention on Facebook among party leaders, beating out Bloc Quebecois Leader Mario Beaulieu, who gets five per cent. Jean-François Fortin, leader of the separatist splinter group Forces et Démocratie enjoys just half a per cent.

Conservatives lead as a party

Party Pages Likes

(Click to view a larger version of the image)

But the Conservatives still take the cake when it comes to party appeal.

“If you look at the interactions over the last three months for Canadians with political parties, the Conservatives are head and shoulders above the rest,” Chan said.

The Conservative Party’s Facebook page has more interactions (37 per cent) than that of any other federal party.

The NDP trail at 23 per cent of interactions, while the Liberal Party has just 18 per cent. That puts the Liberal brand on Facebook just slightly ahead of the Green Party (16 per cent).

The embattled Bloc Quebecois got six per cent of interactions and Forces et Démocratie saw just 0.2 per cent.

So what does it mean if a party is winning on Facebook, but their leader is not?

“There are a variety of ways you can look at this,” Chan says.  “Parties could be doing different strategies, they could be focusing on certain types of posts. All of that will change depending on what the given objective is.”

Parties reaching for authenticity

Chan says each party may be employing differing strategies to engage voters.

He points out that the Conservatives have had great success leveraging video clips to convey their message, while Mulcair has used Facebook to source questions from across the country that voters want answered.

Just this week Trudeau announced through the social networking site that he would be making a major policy announcement on his Facebook page.

Chan says the parties’ various strategies could account for their results. However he says there is one constant goal no matter how the parties differ in strategy: authenticity.

“What we’ve found has worked really well around the world and has worked in Canada leading up to the election are posts – whether they be thoughts, pictures or videos – that are candid, that are not set pieces but an opportunity for Canadians to see behind the scenes what’s happening with the political parties or political leaders,” Chan said.

“Whether it’s before they get up on stage to announce a major speech, to show them at work in a real setting in the office with their team, out there engaging with Canadians – those types of stories really resonate with Canadians. “

Likes by the map

Facebook Election map

(Click image to compare party support by region)

As a campaign tool, Chan said Facebook offers the parties a way of reaching 20 million Canadians, or 70- per cent of eligible voters, at multiple times of the day as they check their news feeds.

Geographically, it also allows the parties to see how well their message is gelling across the country. Heat maps produced by Facebook show that the likes for the respective parties are coming from the places where you might expect traditionally for the time being. 

“Not surprisingly, you’ll see that there’s a lot of blue in the western provinces where traditionally the Conservatives have done well,” Chan says. “Similarly you’ll see a lot of red in the Atlantic provinces where the Liberals have traditionally done well. And in Ontario there’s a little bit of a mix between red and blue.”

However he says there are also insights that go beyond the map.

“Although you don’t see orange represented on the map, what’s interesting and what you cannot see, is that the NDP have had the biggest surge or growth in terms of likes over the past 12 months,” Chan says.

That’s a 355 per cent growth rate to be exact.

“That is multiples of what we’ve seen in the next biggest increase,” Chan says.

So just because the NDP don’t currently lead in interactions, doesn’t mean that will be the case closer to election time. Then again, Chan points out that the NDP growth could be due to a change in strategy, just as other parties could shift to other strategies that help them do better.

“Obviously as we move forward leading up to Oct. 19 we will want to look at these data polls to see how these trend lines change over time,” Chan says.