Five Social Media must do for politicians

There are thousands of social media sites, which for someone who hasn’t even got a Facebook profile must be overwhelming. Whilst I have written about creating a profile network I realise that to start with many politicians will need to take a few ‘baby’ steps into the realm of social media and enabling their constituents to find information about them and their work on-line.

The reasons for doing this is to both ensure that when users of a particular social network search for you they find content that you have produced and control. Additionally search engines will crawl these sites frequently so when a constituent searches for you they will be offered several options to gain access to your content.

I take for granted that you already have a website. If you do not I no longer think this is as essential as it once was and a well formed blog can actually do the same if not better job than any website.

Five Social Media must do for politicians

If you do nothing else, you should do the following now:

1) Write your social profile, this will be invaluable when you add your details to any social networking site as all you will need to do is copy and paste the same details into the description or about me box. Think about how you would sell yourself in a couple of hundred words. Remember to ensure that anything you write is as non-time specific as possible as you may not revisit the content for a long time if at all.

2) Set up a blog, use the social profile that you have created to create an about page. Include a contact page with details of how constituents can reach you. Don’t write ‘Welcome to my blog I will update this frequently’ and then don’t. Pointless introductions are a waste of both yours and the readers time – get straight in there with the content and add periodically.

3) Set up a YouTube page, recording at least three short videos about key local issues. A good example of this would be the Val Shawcross YouTube Channel. Enter details from your social profile into the description section.

4) If you have not already create a Facebook profile that is publicly viewable. If you already have a profile and wish to use it for both personal and professionals reasons ensure that you utilise the Facebook privacy features. Whilst you are at it create a Bebo profile as well. Bebo is bigger among younger people and if you are not in this environment you will miss this key audience. Bebo also often performs better on Google for search results with the whole of your profile visible to the search engine where Facebook only provides full details when you are signed in and therefore not seen by the engines crawler.

5) Start Twittering. Twitter is a microblog which is quick and easy to update with messages about
you. This is a very effective and easily manageable method of keeping constituents informed about the work you are doing.

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Has Friends Reunited left it too late to let you unite?

I joined Friends Reunited long before the term ‘Social Network’ was being used to describe a wave of sites that now connect millions around the world. In the early days you could not add photos (even a profile picture) without paying a subscription. Email addresses and website addresses were banned, leading me to resort to describing my site as wellbelove dot com. The ban was due to the fact that if you wanted to message an old school friend you had to part with the cash for a yearly subscription. Friends Reunited wanted to stop you getting in touch with your old school friends by any other means.

With the birth of services sits such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, where users are free to find and message to their hearts content. Friends Reunited stuck to it’s business model and with it suffered a decline in usage. This all happened as It’s new owners ITV (2005) was having lots of problems elsewhere and what Friends Reunited had really needed at that time was a fresh company with the energy and the guts to react fast and change before it was too late.

Only now, years after Friends Reunited have watched new comers come and grow, have they finally made it free for you to message and receive messages from friends.

Friends Reunited has a big issue with thousands of dormant accounts, many who signed up originally will have changed their email address several times losing contact with the site. How annoying to finally be able to message your friends only to find out that they are no longer there to pick up your message. Careful management of dormant accounts is needed so that we do not have to sift through lots of dead wood to reach the occasional active one.

Friends Reunited are planning a multi-million marketing campaign to help them regain the ground loss to fresher rivals. This will hopefully tempt those who have been away holidaying on the Facebook beach to come back and see if there is anyone else out there who isn’t also on Facebook.

Friends Reunited now needs to go the next step. Enable people to make their profile public – you currently have to be logged in to see any content – what better tool for driving traffic to the site than a million names on a search engine. Integration with other social networking sites would also drive usage. A Friends Reunited Facebook application is needed (if not already planned), a step to far for the owners at ITV maybe?

Is Bebo better than Facebook? Creating a profile network

As part of my research into social networks I recently joined Bebo, a social network popular in the UK and in particular among younger people.

After being an avid Facebook user for some time I wasn’t overwhelmed by the service, however added my profile details and added a link to the page to my homepage at wellbelove.com.

Being a regular egosurfer I was surprised that despite the fact that my Facebook page has been available for much longer my Bebo page was appearing higher in the Google results for a search of Christopher Wellbelove. This has since switched, however it is telling of the importance Google places on Bebo that my Bebo page has appeared on the first page of Google results so quickly.

Whilst I realise it is difficult to maintain profiles on so many sites, the benefits are clear. If Google places a high importance on Bebo then having a profile here that points to your main website, together with your pages on other social networks, by creating a profile on Bebo you will increase their rank and ensure that for users who choose the Bebo network they are still able to access some information about should they search in that network for you.

My Squidoo page, set up at a similar time as my Bebo profile, today appeared above both my Facebook and Bebo profiles in my Google egosurf. You can discover more about services like Squidoo in my article ‘Bringing it all together’.

In short, if you want the widest audience to find you, you need to invest time in placing content where the audience is – on the networks they know and trust. If you want search engines to focus on content you own, you need to invest time in creating these pages, interlinking them so that search engines will trust your profile network as an authority on information about you.