Many social media enthusiasts and newcomers get excited by the tools. They feel having a Twitter account, a Facebook Fan Page and a YouTube channel is enough to attract eyeballs, build a community and increase size of their audience.
If only it were that simple.
Just as in physical space, online relationships are built on personalities, attention and interactions. You has to be willing to be yourself and communicate in a people-friendly way in order to gain the attention and interest of people. The more you research this dynamic, the more evidence you gather which shows it’s not about the technology, it’s about you and how you place yourself in that technological space.
In today’s digital makeover, MP Yvonne Jones provides examples of both effective and ineffective uses of digital outposts.
Yvonne Jones’ digital ecosystem includes a central website, with linked digital outposts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. She also has an orphaned Flickr profile with a single photo. Twitter and Facebook crosslink with her website. Her YouTube channel lacks complete branding, a description and a link to her website.
After a string of MP makeovers for which each ecosystem boasted reasonably consistent branding, Ms. Jones offers a collection of properties which were either created and pulled together without planning, or represent the reality of slim pickings as a late adopter of various platforms. The result is a mishmash of YvonneJones, YvonneJJones and YvonneJonesLiberal (not to mention the properties which lack vanity URLs). Regardless of how this came to be, a little creative and planning can lead to something more cohesive and consistent.
An unusual mishmash of facts appears in Ms. Jones’ Facebook profile. Her about page suggest she is a Member of Parliament for Labrador, a member of the Labrador Legislature and running as the Liberal Party of Canada candidate for Labrador. The body of her Facebook bio describes all of her work as an MHA and then stops before explaining her role as a member of the federal Liberal caucus including her role as the Liberal critic for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Northern Development, Arctic Council, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Search and Rescue.
On her website, Ms. Jones offers a slightly revised version of her bio which opens and closes with brief information relevant to her role as an MP.
Ms. Jones’ website suffers from a slew of other problems — the more significant imposed upon her by her party. You might recall I first reported on bugs in the Liberal website theme back in March. I reported that the menu system leaves behind artifacts as users move their mouse over the various options. Yeah, Ms. Jones has that, t00. This causes usage problems for site visitors.
Another problem is the Liberal website theme is decidedly incompatible with mobile devices. The template does not allow visitors to shrink the view to see more of the site on their iPhone screen. Then, if the user drags the site display to the left to see what’s off-screen, the masthead fails to render. The template suffers from the same problem on iPads, although the size of the screen offers a larger field of view.
Other problems with Ms. Jones include pages which have incomplete information, no information or messages that suggest neglected or disabled functionality. These include:
- Constituency Reports: Document link is undated.
- News & Events: “No posts found.”
- Town Hall Meetings: “Our next meeting will be:” then nothing listed
- Photos: “Flickr is currently unavailable.” This same problem exists in the right sidebar.
- Speeches & Statements: “No posts found.”
- Downloads & Documents: nothing listed
This means some menu options such as Yvonne in Ottawa have only one of four submenus which offer something in exchange for the click. In this particular case, it’s Voting Record which takes visitors away from Ms. Jones’ site to the Parliamentary web site page with Ms. Jones’ voting history in the House of Commons.
And, since I’m already coming across as a bit nit-picky, let me also throw in that Ms. Jones’ blog is actually a newswire — the content is strictly official media releases — a no-no among us blogging purists (insert smiley face here).
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Keep all of your implemented components up to date. When no content or updates are available, offer visitors the ability to sign up to be notified when updates are available.
- Rename your blog to something like Newswire to more accurately reflect the nature of the content being published.
- Make sure external links and PDFs open in a new tab rather than sending visitors away from your site.
Ms. Jones’ use of Twitter offsets many of the shortcomings of her website. She’s active on the platform, has a very relatable tone and shares a mix of political issues and personal activities/musings. She uses pictures effectively, and her text-only tweets are generally easy to read and engaging. And, she shares more just as many photos from her point of view as photos which feature her with others.
A few quick samples of tweets with photos… In February Ms. Jones was part of a tour of the Suncor oil sands mine…
…and in April Ms. Jones shared photos all Canadians can relate to during the spring thaw.
Ms. Jones is not nearly as effective on Facebook. Her updates are spotty and not particularly interesting or engaging. In fact, with few exceptions, her Facebook updates appear to be almost exclusively official communications. If you scroll back to the updates in November 2013, you’ll see a smattering of updates that are more personable and engaging. That’s a small oasis, though. If you keep scrolling back you’ll quickly find yourself back in official announcements.
Her YouTube channel has only a few videos, all of them either appearances in QP or on public affairs programs. Her first two videos boast titles First Question in Question Period: Search and Rescue and First Question Period: Supplementary Question on Search and Rescue. While those were posted long ago, I don’t know I’d title the videos with “First…” Rather, I would have included mention of “first” in the tweet or Facebook status update that linked to the video.
There’s only one photo in Ms. Jones’ Flickr account. It was uploaded in July 2013 and shows Ms. Jones sitting next to Justin Trudeau while she’s sworn in as an MP. However, you’d never know that from the title of the photo… 8951864800_179e4eed55_b.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Change your Facebook approach to be more like your use of Twitter though with only one or two updates a day. That is, you want your Facebook posts to be relatable, easily read and attention-getting.
- Your Twitter style should be easily portable to YouTube, which would keep your YouTube channel fresh more routinely and with content other than QP and news appearances.
- Properly curate any content you put online. Use titles and descriptions which will help people find your content and understand both the content and context.
Participation & Community
Ms. Jones boasts a great mix of styles in her Twitter stream. Over the last six months, her content has been a mix of regular tweets featuring “original” content (36%), retweets of content issued by others (42%) and replies (22%). In fact, her reply rate is above average for MPs. If you do the math, you’ll find out that Ms. Jones has issues 1,297 tweets.
She’s also attracted a fair bit of participation among her community. Over the last six months, 956 Twitter users have issued 2,662 tweets mentioning Ms. Jones — a combination of tweets, retweets and replies.
While her Facebook Fan Page may boast 5,679 likes, Ms. Jones is rarely able to eek out more than a few likes, shares and comments on any of her posts. This speaks to the language, tone and style of her updates (stiff, official communications), evidenced by the types of posts which result in higher levels of engagement. In fact, some Facebook updates are cross-posted tweets (the clunky tweets rather than the engaging ones). You won’t see Mr. Jones’ name in the ensuing conversations. If she’s responding to comments and questions, she’s doing it in a way that hides her participation.
Thinking back to the 956 Twitter users who engaged in 2,662 interactions (of some degree or another) with Ms. Jones in the last six months, her Facebook presence has barely a fraction-of-a-fraction of that degree of engagement during the same period.
Three opportunities for improvement:
- Keep doing what you’re doing on Twitter. And figure out how you can make that same style of engagement and participation translate to other platforms.
- Soften your Facebook posting style. I’d recommend 4-7 posts per week of meaningful information and connecting ideas.
- Build a community on Facebook. You arguably already have over 5,000 eyeballs. Though, you’ve waited until the point at which Facebook changed how Fan Page content is presented in news feeds. You now face a bit of an uphill battle. This will require more energy on your part to build an energized community.
Interruption (the bonus category)
I remember hearing an episode of This American Life in the last two year which featured the story of a newspaper print publisher in the southern United States who is thriving at a time when print newspapers are collapsing. His secret? People. People. People. His philosophy is as long as people see their own faces and names, and the faces and names of their friends and acquaintances, they will continue to buy his paper. It works.
Ms. Jones has a similar successful formula on Twitter. Not only does she talk about the political issues and personal activities/musings that resonate others, she features photos of people — particularly from her point of view — which allows her to tell the story in her own views and words. This is a great approach, and one which should be playing out on her Facebook, Flickr and YouTube outposts.
And, on a parting note, my condolences to Ms. Jones on the recent loss of her friend, Tim.