I had the privilege of attending an event at which Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke last week. He was unsurprisingly articulate, demonstrating a keen sense of politics, the nuances of the different “orders of government” and how to communicate his idea.
Mayor Nenshi related a story of how he learned about “politics in full sentences” from now Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson. Mayor Nenshi took to the idea of unrestricted communication which dismisses sound bites, something the mayor admits he does particularly well given his professorial history.
Communicating complete thoughts is important. People should understand the nuances of an issue, particularly if the issue is nuanced and a clear cut answer or decision is not possible or practical.
Besides offering some very positive reinforcement on effective use of social media, today’s digital makeover provides a great example of something many politicians suffer from — that in an effort to provide complete information, they provide too much information and don’t organize it with the reader in mind.
The fall season of digital makeovers kicks off today with a look at MP Megan Leslie.
Megan Leslie has recruited her website and social media profiles as important components of her style of activist politics. Ms. Leslie maintains an active presence on Twitter and Facebook, routinely updates her YouTube and Flickr channels and probably doesn’t realize she has a Google+ page.
While her website serves as the hub of her digital ecosystem, I’m not convinced it’s well conceived or organized. For one, Ms. Leslie’s role as Environment Critic only appears in the hear on the main page, and vanishes once visitors get inside her site. Those who aren’t paying attention to her role when they first arrive on the site, won’t know once they get clicking.
Second, there is too much information spread out in a massive navigational structure. Her main menu actually extends beyond the width of most browser windows rendering at least one of her links (the all important Take Action) invisible. The architecture also creates a deep and poorly formatted site map in the footer. It also makes mobile browsing overwhelming.
While she updates her YouTube and Flickr accounts regularly, she hasn’t fully identified herself in either profile, nor has she organized her YouTube channel for a helpful and engaging user experience.
The On the Issues section of Ms. Leslie’s website is extensive, made up of apparent media releases and some commentary covering everything from arts and culture to women’s issues. However, the Environment section is the only one that’s been updated in the last three months. Some sections have been update in the last six months. Most haven’t been updated in well over a year. As a result, people looking for recent attention from Ms. Leslie and the NDP will be led to believe these issues are of lesser consequence.
- Streamline and focus your site architecture to cater to the user experience.
- Rather than simply publishing a stream of media releases, consider breaking down each issue in a way the explains why the issue is important, the main elements of concern and what you and your party are doing to address concerns — one page each, with links to relevant articles.
- Make sure your YouTube channel is organized for people who arrive there, including having a cover photo and organizing your videos in themed playlists to help those who are concerned about particular issues.
Ms. Leslie publishes a variety of content to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. She keeps all properties active, publishing to Twitter pretty much daily to Twitter, to Facebook at least a few times each week, to YouTube as often as she appears in QP, and to Flickr roughly once per month. That’s a healthy amount of activity and a respectable pace to keep.
Channels like Twitter and Facebook are used to share personally-minded comments more often than YouTube and Flickr. Despite that, there are many things Ms. Leslie could do easily, now, to supplement her video and high-quality visual content. Specifically, Ms. Leslie has published 210 videos to her YouTube channel since her first on December 18, 2008. With very few exceptions, all of this content is official and from the House of Commons. Her last non-HoC video was published in April 2013 when Ms. Leslie committed to the “Dance Manifesto.”
By contrast, Ms. Leslie’s Flickr stream, despite its more professional look, comes across as more upbeat and significantly more spontaneous. Among the photos is one of Ms. Leslie with three others wrapping themselves in Canadian flags at a reception for newly sworn-in Canadians. With few exceptions, the photostream skews toward images of a more political or official duty flavour.
While she does publish her share of political commentary on Twitter and Facebook, Ms. Leslie reserves her more “personal” updates” for both of these channels, allowing people to gain a better understanding of Ms. Leslie’s personal interests. In addition to her outdoors activities, this includes volunteering at the Jazz Festival and attending a Roller Derby birthday bash.
Ms. Leslie almost always attaches some form of attention-getting image to her posts.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Organize your YouTube content into thematic playlists and dress up/exploit that property in the same was as you do with Twitter and Facebook.
- As popular as images are, Canadians love their online video. Adding energetic and informative videos to your communications mix will help you reach more people.
- Get rid of your Google+ page. It’s been dormant since April 2013 and takes away from your other properties.
Participation & Community
Ms. Leslie is definitely comfortable using social media. And, she understands digital culture demands more than just broadcasting information. Among Ms. Leslie’s 1,578 tweets during the six months spanning March 9 and September 7 of this year, 57% have been retweets of other people’s content, 32% have been her own original tweets and 11% have been replies. During the same period, Ms. Leslie was mentioned in 8,537 tweets issued from 3,324 unique Twitter accounts.
Some prominent themes within the Twitter chatter include saving VIA rail service, the Progress Summit, community and climate, and Halifax of course. There was also a small concentration of activity related to the Trinity-Spadina byelection.
Ms. Leslie’s Facebook page has become something of an active community. Many of Ms. Leslie’s posts stir up a fair number of likes, shares and comments. Analysis using Sysomos MAP shows her 126 wall posts between June 20 and September 7 attracted an average of more than 71 likes and nearly 6 comments. Some of her posts attract over 200 shares.
As active a Facebook poster as Ms. Leslie is, she is decidedly less active in the comment threads of her posts. She occasionally jumps in with responses in light or comfortable discussions, and generally steers clear of heated discussions resulting from her posts. A number of questions in a variety of threads seem to go unanswered. To her credit, Ms. Leslie leaves “respectful criticisms” (that is, criticisms of her that don’t include inflammatory or abrasive language) intact in her threads, even if she leaves them unchecked.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Respond to legitimate questions. If you’re responding offline, make sure you give an indication that you will respond or have responded to the question where the question is posted. Otherwise, it looks like you’re not listening.
- Consider sharing more “original” content on Twitter to spark discussions. Participate to the extent possible.
- Keep publishing a great mix of content that’s spans personal and political.
Interruption (the bonus category)
With so many people itching to knock our elected officials down a peg or two, it’s difficult for politicians to juggle being a politician and being a person. It’s easy for politicians to become bland people (if not actually, at least in public appearance) in order to avoid offending people and to ensure some degree of job stability. Which is probably why we seldom see politicians actually doing what the rest of us do.
Megan Leslie shared a refreshing photo of a refreshing drink in her Twitter stream in July — an image of a Caesar she was enjoying to celebrate a friend’s newly acquired Canadian citizenship. No word, officially, if the drink had alcohol.