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.

Labour bloggers – discover Labour supporters who blog

An increasing number of Labour councillors, MPs and activists are using blogs to communicate with their constituents and share their views. Many of them are brought together on a website that ‘unites Labour supporters blogging for Labour‘ which is an excellent initiative helping Labour supporters find other blogs where they will find hints and tips for what makes a good blog. Another community of Labour Bloggers, including the ability to create your own blog, is Labour Home.

In planning your own blog it is a great idea to check out others that are already established. Some of the best examples from Labour Bloggers that I have found include:

Luke Akehurst

Harry’s Place

Hoxton councillors

Sunderkatwala’s Blog

Dave Hills Hackney diary

Lambeth Life

Leighton Andrews, Rhonda Assembly Member

Labour in Haggerston

Wiseman’s blog

Small Town scribbles

Sadiq Khan

Peter John

Peter Wheeler

Stephen Beer

Steve Reed

In my search for Labour supporter blogs I found many that had not been updated with no sign post of a reason for the lack of new contributions. Once you set up a blog, don’t forget about it, it could look as if you are doing nothing. If you decide that you are no longer going to maintain your blog signpost to another blogger or your local party website.

Facebook and blogging – the future of Elections

In recent months the prominence of the internet in elections has become increasingly evident. With increasing numbers of voters using the internet the need to get your online campaigning strategy right is more important than ever before.

In the 2008 London Mayoral elections I spotted that both Conservative Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick were using the Facebook pages service, with Brian running Facebook and Google adverts. I immediately set up a page for Labours Ken Livingstone and at that time Boris had around 5,000 supporters and Brian around 1,000.

By election day Boris had over 9,000 supporters, Brian around 2,300 and Ken nearly 3,000. By not being there at the beginning and without a clear link with Ken’s only profile page a huge opportunity to reach out to supporters was missed. With Facebook pages I was able to easily email supporters who had signed up to the page and their support was clearly demonstrated on their own Facebook profile in a box that shows which pages they are subscribed to.

During the election I spent many hours collecting, sorting and delivering leaflets – many of which would have gone straight into the recycling. On election day I spent the whole day knocking on hundreds of doors of people who were mostly out and would be surprised if I reached more than a hundred to remind them to vote.

When I set up the Facebook page for Ken it must have taken less than an hour. On election day his page had over 1,000 views and over 13,000 in 8 weeks. If the page had been officially recognised with fresh content of photographs and video footage added on a regular basis the number of views would have been even higher. Discussion boards could have been used to garner opinion on key issues and the emailing facility used to encourage supporters to help with the campaign and keep them informed of progress.

It seems ridiculous spending so much time attempting to reach those who in the majority are not interested and no time at all on those who clearly are looking for the information within their network. It is not sufficient to just create a website you need to go their networks creating facebook pages, a blog and create a YouTube Channel. Each time you add new content to your site it is then quick and easy to add this to the appropriate network as well.

I am not suggesting that because the Facebook page was not utilised properly that Ken Livingstone lost the election. I am not suggesting that Facebook replaces leaflets and other traditional forms of campaigning. The fact is though, with very little effort, new technologies can be used to reach potential and current supporters. If you do not utilise these and keep abreast of how they are changing and the opportunities these changes give you – your opponents will.

In my experience the politicians who claim that online is not important this is more to do with their lack of knowledge and fear of the technology. What I say to them is that you do not have to understand everything, but trust those that do, and spare some of your very busy time to learn what you can. If you do not you will have a lot more time on your hands when the opponent who is ahead of the game beats you.

The campaign for 2012 London election has started already with the creation of the Boris Watch Facebook Page.

Update: 4 May: Boris Watch Facebook page now has over 1,000 fans, it took 24 days to reach that number of supporters for the Ken Livingstone page that I set up during the election campaign. Clearly the level of passion and interest is currently at its highest, however it is also interesting that a negative page (against Boris) should grow faster than a positive page (for Ken).