Here we go again – another federal election. Is it fair to say the battleground is a little more virtual than in year’s past? Though many consider Prime Minister Trudeau’s 2015 election as the digital catalyst of Canadian politics, I would argue we haven’t quite hit our stride yet.

Social media is a must-have communications tool for candidates, but the reality is a successful campaign goes beyond a Facebook post. From offering new ways to consume your news to watching behind the scenes Instagram stories, these platforms bring you into the lives of candidates – giving you more access than ever before.

As the election starts to shape up online, here are the four digital trends to look out for:

1. Paid media becomes the priority

The increased shift towards digital ad buys is changing the election landscape. One of the major differences between the 2015 election and this year is that organic reach on social platforms no longer exists. If you want voters to see your content, you must have some type of paid spend behind it. But, to be clear, more money doesn’t always mean success. Paid dollars can only take you so far if your content is lackluster.

The takeaway? Invest in creative to break through the noise with smart, thoughtful content and target those niche voters. A great example of creative packing a punch is NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s recent Quebec focused ad which demonstrates a unique level of vulnerability. This is the must watch ad of the campaign season to date.

2. Influencers running for election have the digital upper hand

This year, several former professional athletes and notable musicians are running for parliament. Though some may consider these candidates relatively non-traditional, many have spent years honing their craft and building a large and engaged digital following. While this may be their first campaign, these candidates have an audience of thousands online. Will this help them? Potentially…

We’ve seen star candidates step into the political arena and fair well globally – “The Terminator” was the Governor of California for years as social platforms were on the rise. This is by no means a new concept; however, the digital landscape has evolved significantly – giving athletes, artists, etc. a real stake in the game. Former Olympic kayaker and current Liberal candidate for Milton, Adam van Koeverden, is certainly one to watch. The athlete-turned-politico has more than 45,000 Twitter followers and more than 17,000 Instagram followers. His content is personal and grounded in a sense of community as his daily Instagram Stories give voters a brief glimpse into his life.

3. Trolls are winning the election

An increasingly alarming trend is the number of candidates resigning over past comments made online. Candidates from across party lines have been called to resign their candidacy after old tweets and Facebook posts resurfaced with not-so-friendly political views.

Keyboard warriors are more ready than ever to dig up the dirt, and the reality is we have yet to see a candidate fully restore their reputation following one of these incidents. We have access to years and years of digital content straight from the candidate’s mouth, yet no party has successfully found a way to fully vet their candidate’s digital footprint. This is the dark and twisty turn digital campaigns are taking where accountability is the asking price. Trolls will keep trolling. Don’t give them content for an attack.

4. Instagram is the feel-good platform of #exln43

Elections go by fast and at the end of the day, candidates need to be likeable – Instagram is proving to be a big help. Whether you are a candidate or third party this election season, nothing beats the power of an impactful image or an emotionally driven video.

It may feel like Instagram is taking a backseat to Twitter and Facebook in terms of ad spends, but the platform is serving up a new dose of authenticity and will only continue to grow in popularity. This platform in many ways helped humanize candidates running for Prime Minister and offers a unique avenue into a new, younger generation of voters.

Looking for a little Instagram inspiration beyond our three primary political parties? Consider Adam Scotti, photographer to the Prime Minister. His Instagram is a beautifully-curated account showcasing the power of an image and the impact of real-time behind the scenes content.