By March 31, 2014 1 Comments Read More →

Digital Makeover: Bal Gosal

I suppose if I was interested, at all, in being an MP, I’d probably want to be the Sports Minister. Its seems like one of those portfolios which confuses the line between political work and some personal fun. And, as far as being active online goes, it’s like manna from the heavens.

The content possibilities seem limitless. And the opportunities to showcase people of all ages, all sports abilities, doing what they do is perfect for social media. Not to mention the ease at which you could build an engaged online community.

Former Sports Minister, then critic, now mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre is known for live tweeting Montreal Canadiens games. However, I’m not doing a digital makeover of a former MP. No. Today I’m pitching to the Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of Sport.

Digital Ecosystem

BalGosal-DigitalEcosystem

BalGosal-websiteMinister Gosal has a healthy digital ecosystem. Not just because it’s self-aware, as noted in the illustration, but because Minister Gosal keeps it fairly active.

His website is the epicentre of his ecosystem. As it should be. And, links to his digital outposts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn) are prominently displayed.

Before I carry on, I should note that I don’t typically consider LinkedIn as part my MP digital makeover series. I don’t believe LinkedIn is a relevant platform for politicians, except for its role in post-political life. Further, I have yet to see an MP use it even half-heartedly. That’s not a challenge, by the way. I’d only be interested in any example that’s remarkable in its use as a platform to engage with confirmed MP-specific voters or issue stakeholders.

Also, Minister Gosal also has a Google+ account that is a bit of an outlier, linked only through his YouTube channel. This is likely one of those suddenly-on-Google+ situations many MPs with YouTube channels have found themselves in. It’s both a blessing and a curse. As a blessing, Google+ will play an increasingly significant role in SEO — if the account is used properly. As a curse, Google+ is yet another property to maintain.

Its fairly common among MPs to have a website which serves some basic functions. These include putting a stake in the web, providing basic information about the MP, the constituency her or she represents and some services available, some multimedia content, and contact information. The really good websites provide information on constituency and portfolio specific issues the MP is working on, and engage the visitor somehow (sign up for a mailing list, get involved in the community, volunteer for future campaigns, request a tour, etc…).

Minister Gosal’s website is a common website. It’s not particularly remarkable. It’s clean and easy to use, and is mobile-friendly. A badge promoting the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement seems out of place. About the most remarkable thing about his website is the absence of a prominent mention of his role as Minister of Sport. You have to read the bio on his About page for that.

His Facebook presence uses his personal profile. That’s not such a bad thing. It has some advantages particularly where there is a feeling among his 3,971 “Friends” that they have a personal connection with the Minister. However, he’s almost 1,000 friends shy of a Facebook limit which will prevent him from having more friends. A Fan Page has other advantages. However, the big decision is in how to have a successful migration. If Minister Gosal goes that route, it will take a fair bit of planning.

While I’m on about Facebook, there’s no indication in his About section or in his cover photo that he’s a politician or a member of Cabinet. His Twitter profile, on the other hand, is well described and the cover photo features Minister Gosal facing off against the Prime Minister in ball hockey.

His YouTube channel has relevant descriptive info on the About page. While preparing this makeover, I happened to notice a typo in the information…

BalGosal-Twitter-typo1

And, I stumbled on another, also on YouTube. This one’s a little more entertaining…

BalGosal-Twitter-typo2

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Make sure you identify yourself as an MP and as Minister of Sport on all of your outposts.
  • Merge the Bramalea-Gore-Malton and Constituent Services menus, and add one for Sports. Make sure the information you provide serves the audience rather than promotes your achievements.
  • Move the search feature from the footer of your website to near the top of your right sideblocks (perhaps replace the Free Trade badge).

GRADE: B

Content

Like many, Minister Gosal has his strengths and weaknesses when it comes to online content. He’s particularly adept at Twitter. His tone and style is “in the pocket” for the platform. He comes across as energetic and personable. He mentions lots of people and frequently attaches pictures to his tweets. Some particularly good recent tweets feature Minister Gosal participating in a fundraising squash tournament. One of his tweets featured a photo of the Minister in action on the court:

BalGosal-tweet-playing_squash

And a follow-up photo showed the a group of tournament players in their, er… “glistening” post-game glory. The photo features Tie Domi, Tony Clement and the Minister in a refreshingly unusual pose.

BalGosal-tweet-squash_outing You’ll often see photos of the Minister behind the scenes at events and news studios.

BalGosal-tweet-interview

While he’s active on Facebook, his voice on that platform isn’t nearly as engaging. While he certainly posts updates which are more fluid for the platform, it’s not uncommon for his posts to be a little clunky. Like the two that appear in this collage. Neither really takes advantage of the space to say something more engaging.

BalGosal-FB-collage

However, Minister Gosal’s achilles heel is his videos.

Well, let me back up. His videos of him “in the moment” such as on television or in his constituency are perfect. He comes across as very relatable; someone you’d like to play a round of squash with, then go out for a post-game meal. His official statement videos are a bit of a liability. The Minister isn’t able to pull off a video-audience-friendly read. I believe he would do a much better job if he had a goal for the video, internalized three main points he wants to deliver, and then does so extemporaneously. (It’s a Toastmasters thing.)

The content on his Google+ profile is largely cross-posted from YouTube and the PMO’s 24 Seven videos.

I recommend against promoting the 24 Seven videos on Facebook, YouTube and Google+. This approach comes across as a duty rather than part of the Minister’s own content activities, particularly since all other MPs do this as well. It means every person who follows Conservative MPs is beaten over the head with a new 24 Seven video once a week. Further, by giving the 24 Seven video playlist the second-most prominent real estate on his YouTube landing page (second to third-party news content), Minister Gosal is making his own videos third-class citizens on his property.

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Stop using scripts. Be yourself. Share your enthusiasm for your portfolio.
  • Figure our how to translate the informal and energetic tone you exhibit on Twitter to your updates on Facebook (and Google+) and your YouTube videos. Some videos of you in action and doing sports you’re both good at and just learning are among the great freebie-engaging content opportunities you can have fun with.
  • Allow your content to be prominent on your online properties. Promote third-party content that is relevant to the work you do because that’s what your audience wants. Reach your audience on their terms.

GRADE: B

Participation & Community

Quite simply, Minister Gosal is a standout among MPs when it comes to online participation and engagement.

Let’s start with his Facebook profile where his “friends” are not nearly as active as you’d expect they would be given his portfolio. This may tie back to my analysis of his Facebook content which is not nearly as relatable as his tweets. However, Minister Gosal is an active participant in the ensuing discussions. A recent example highlights this.

The Minister changed his cover photo to promote the Paralympics on March 18th. A commenter pointed out he’d missed an opportunity to use the proper Paralympic logo rather than that of the Olympics. The Minister acknowledged the mistake within 75 minutes and replaced the cover photo with another using the Paralympics logo four hours later.

BalGosal-FB-engagement

But an even bigger engagement story is Minister Gosal’s use of Twitter. His is among the “evenly” distributed I’ve observed among MPs. Over the last six months, replies dominate Minister Gosal’s Twitter timeline (39%), followed by his own tweets (36%) and retweets of others’ (25%). In all, he’s issued 4,220 tweets in the last six months.

BalGosal-Twitter-analysis

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • Overhaul your Facebook approach to be more aligned with your use of Twitter. That is, make sure your content speaks to people rather than at them. This will go a long way to drawing out participation.
  • Ask more questions on Facebook. Invite your community to participate in a discussion by kicking one off. Then, participate. I’d suggest weekly or monthly online chats, whether through Google on Air/Hangouts or Twitter, in which you facilitate a discussion with Canadian athletes — national, regional and local; professional, amateur and high-school… I think you get the idea.
  • Use your online properties to organize impromptu sports meetups/tweetups during your travels. Bring together people who have common interests, people you can enlist to help you promote events, physical education, etc…

GRADE: A

Interruption (the bonus category)

I’m impressed to see how often Minister Gosal mentions other Twitter handles in his own tweets. He’s doing a great job highlighting people, raising their profile and making new connections on common interests.

GRADE: A

OVERALL GRADE: A-

Links to MP social media properties and digital makeovers completed to-date can be found on The Digital HouseSketch by Andrea Ross. Analysis performed using Marketwired/Sysomos Heartbeat and MAP.

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.