This is the last in a series of thee digital makeovers specifically looking at MPs who don’t do digital particularly well. It was a series I’d been asked to do for some time. While I do issue the odd bad grade based on random selection of MPs, readers had made it known they wanted to see successive examples of “bad use.”
As I noted in the previous two “critical” makeovers, I hope the MPs I “audit” will take my remarks in good stride and will be interested in doing an interview with me for a podcast. After all, the intent of this series is to inform so that MPs and candidates can be more effective and have a greater impact in their online activities. The makeovers are not a judgement on the quality of the politician or his/her character.
For each of the makeovers in this “critical” series, I’ve selected MPs who can help me illustrate a particular point. This week’s primary takeaway is “opportunistic use of social media can be a liability.” The argument I use later in this post is it takes a certain personality to only call friends when something is needed from them, like help with a move. Few of us would do that in “real life.” Why be that person in “digital life?”
Remember, we’re talking about SOCIAL media.
And with that, let’s get down to business with Ottawa South MP and Transport, Infrastructure and Communities critic, David McGuinty.
Ottawa South MP David McGuinty’s website landing page begins with the welcome message “Dear friends, I hope that you find the information contained in my website to be informative and helpful.”
Sadly, his website, the information within it and his larger digital ecosystem (which encompasses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr) does not. The pieces are loosely connected and lightly inflected with information. With the exception of YouTube, his digital activities are largely stagnant.
I usually suggest MP websites boast links to his or her various social media outposts, and that they, in turn, link back to the website which I recommend be viewed as a digital constituency office. In Mr. McGuinty’s case, the absence of prominent links to his Twitter and Facebook properties is a good thing. They are essentially liabilities in his online outreach efforts, failing to be any of broadcast, community-building and activation channels. And, his integration of Flick on his website is weak.
While Mr. McGuinty’s website is clean and easy to navigate, it lacks relevant information and useful presentation. While he does provide links to a large number of categorized third-party websites, he doesn’t give much attention to issues he’s working on for his constituents or on his file as Transport, Infrastructure and Communities critic. Figuring out what he’s up to means sifting through a stream of newspaper articles he’s linked to, or the official speeches and statements he’s posted, the most recent from November 2013 and May 2013 respectively.
His Twitter and Facebook accounts are easily identifiable as his, boasting clear photographs and descriptions (though his Facebook description is on the About page with no clear info on his main page). Flickr, a channel about photographic images, lacks a profile photo to identify the account as belonging to Mr. McGuinty. The profile photo for his YouTube account, Mr. McGuinty’s most active channel, is too small to identify him.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Properly identify all of your digital outposts with a common and clear photograph. Make sure all properties identify you on the main page (don’t make people click around to figure out who the page belongs to).
- Fix your photo gallery so clicking on a photo doesn’t send visitors to a blank page with a photo on it. Use a gallery display tool that allows visitors to see and navigate through images while “remaining on your site.”
- Make sure your page caters to the needs of your constituents and stakeholders. Consider polling them on what they would like to know and how they would like to find it.
It’s fair to say Mr. McGuinty and his team fail to see the value of being active online. Strange given the demographic of his riding and the activity associated with his portfolio. Consider how much has happened on the transportation file in 2013 and how active (and effective) many of the mayors of major municipalities are online. In both cases, there has been a lot of online discussion, none of which Mr. McGuinty participated in, thus keeping his profile very low. Opportunity lost.
Remember, not everyone watches public affairs programs so appearances on panels cater only to immediate issue stakeholders. Not being active and effective online as a politician is making a commitment to being absent from the larger public eye. As noted in the 2013 Matters of Opinion report, being engaged and connected to high profile journalists online helps ensure important messages reach the wider public INCLUDING those who only get their news from television, radio and print. (Have you noticed how often tweets, online photos, Facebook updates and YouTube videos are central to news reporting these days?)
Mr. McGuinty’s strongest content is published to YouTube. That channel features QP appearances, press conferences and a two of official statements, on for Canada Day 2013 and another for Christmas 2012. His most recent video was published four months ago. Facebook is his next most active channel where he last posted an uncontextualized link on March 27, 2013. That accompanies a number of other uncontextualized links and official statements. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s no personality to be found in his updates.
Flickr follows as the third most active channel. Mr. McGuinty appears with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee recipients in a photo uploaded to the site on February 24, 2013. Twitter was last updated on January 23, 2013, when Mr. McGuinty (or a staffer) responded to the question “what is point of twitter account if not monitored?” The account, which was launched on March 31, 2011 (clearly for the election) had been dormant since Mr. McGuinty issued a thank you message on election night, May 2, 2011.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Don’t use social media only when you need something (e.g. votes). That’s like contacting friends only when you need them to help you move. Communicate. Keep constituents and issue-stakeholders informed.
- Keep the cobwebs off of your social media sites. It sends a very bad impression about your commitment to communication when the most public of your owned channels are abaondoned.
- Inflect some community activity in your YouTube channel. The election is next year. There isn’t much time to show you doing more than just being in QP.
Participation & Community
While there have been some public comments posted to his Facebook updates, Mr. McGuinty himself is absent from the discussion. Similarly, Mr. McGuinty didn’t respond to any of the 614 tweets mentioning his Twitter handle over the last 12 months. Of those, 69 asked specific questions, some encouraged Liberal action on files/issues, and others were connected with Mr. McGuinty’s appearances on television and various events.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Provide context for your Facebook status updates. This creates the basis for participation.
- Respond to comments and especially to questions posted to your updates. People ask questions because they don’t know the answers. Provide them.
- Provide infomation on actions being taken to those requesting it.
Interruption (the bonus category)
This category is meant to acknowledge things MPs are doing particularly well, above and beyond what I would normally expect to see as part of my makeover evaluation. Mr. McGuinty’s digital ecosystem doesn’t qualify for a bonus grade.