Minister Baird no foreigner to Twitter chatter

Minister Baird no foreigner to Twitter chatter

One week ago, today, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had been mentioned in 1,505 tweets mentions by 1,103 unique Twitter accounts over a 24 hour period. Most of the tweets he was mentioned in were related to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the #FreeSavchenko campaign and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwicz.

It’s a very different story this morning. News broke last night that Minister Baird will be announcing his retirement from a lifetime in politics this morning. The announcement is still hours in the offing. The buzz is very much alive, though. As of 5:45amET, Minister Baird has been mentioned in 12,518 tweets by 7,888 unique Twitter users over the previous 24 hours.

It’s a mixed bag of sentiment, covering the announcement itself, and ranging from high praise for a lifetime in public service regardless of political ideology to celebrations by those who feel Minister Baird is making a long-overdue exit.

Analysis conducted using Sysomos MAP.

Photo: Cover photo from @Baird Twitter account.

What is @Canada, really?

What is @Canada, really?

Since storming on to Twitter one week ago, today, the @Canada account has attracted ridicule, criticism and confusion. The account is a lot of things at the same time… playing in to stereotypes, promoting selected Canadian businesses, geolocating Canadian cuisine, and making inflated claims about Canadian innovation.

The account is owned by the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, one of a collection of regional and purpose-specific social media properties maintained by the department.

Things looked promising when the account was in its infancy. The second and third tweets suggested the account would focus on digital diplomacy (using the hashtag #digitaldiplomacy) — building up Canada’s international reputation and relations online. That quickly fell apart and, 27 tweets later, it’s clear that @Canada is a solution looking for a problem. Or, in digital communications parlance, it’s a shiny object with no clear purpose (see the tip sheet, below).

So, is @Canada really for digital diplomacy? Or, is it a stew of marketing messages ostensibly for an international audience?

Indeed, it’s the account manager’s/managers’ fractured and manic approach to tweeting that makes it just too damned easy to question the purpose of the account — even ridicule it.

One tweet which suggests Canadians invented the light bulb (we actually contributed technology that, when combined with other innovations, led to the invention of the light bulb) drew a response “can ‘we’ tone down the hubris here? Wouldn’t want to go wrecking ‘our’ reputation…”


In defense of the account and the person/people managing it, there is clearly an effort to use a conversational tone and be part of the Twitter-culture. And, there are some very relevant tweets including those which promote studying chef education in Canada (again, very industry specific), a trial of a made-in-Canada Ebola vaccine, and a Canadian research partnership with the Gates Foundation to find an HIV vaccine,

I was interviewed about @Canada by CBC’s John Bowman for his weekly column this past Monday. You can read his piece and listen to excerpts of our conversation here.

Five things you should do before launching your online effort

Here’s a list of five things to consider for those in digital public affairs, or digital diplomacy, who are thinking about or have been tasked with establishing an online presence:

  1. Understand the problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Create a job description that identifies the problem and target audience, and establishes the criteria for selecting the best technological platform and meaningful measures of success (the number of followers WAS a meaningful measure of account success until maybe 2008).
  3. Be consistent in your use of the technology/platform to work towards your goals.
  4. Consider very carefully not just the content you put out, but the sequence and flow from one tweet to the next.
  5. Be very careful if you are an “official” communications channel and you start promoting specific companies. Know that you could be opening yourself up to a very big problem with other companies.

Quick stats using Sysomos MAP (Nov 26 through Dec 2)

  • @Canada issued 27 tweets
  • @Canada has been mentioned in 37,455 tweets by 31,875 Twitter accounts (not including @Canada)
  • @Canada’s biggest day was November 26 when it was mentioned in 22,154 tweets
  • 72% of @Canada twitter mentions are retweets, 15% replies and 13% “original” mentions
  • 90% of @Canada mentions are one-time mentions (the participant only mentioned the account once)
  • 69% of participants in @Canada Twitter-related chatter are men, 31% are women
  • 58% of participants in @Canada Twitter-related chatter are from Canada, 28% from the U.S. and 3% from the U.K.
  • 61% of Canadian participants in @Canada Twitter-related chatter are from Ontario, 13% from B.C., and 10% from Alberta
  • @Canada’s most popular tweet, so far (“.@Canada does not apologize for this new Twitter account. #sorrynotsorry”) was issued on November 26 and has attracted 6,908 retweets and 5,721 favourites
Digital Makeover: Megan Leslie

Digital Makeover: Megan Leslie

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.

Digital Ecosystem

MeganLeslie-websiteMegan 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.

Three opportunities for improvement:

  • 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.

MeganLeslie-TW01 MeganLeslie-FB01

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.




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.

Myers-Briggs-Twitter: political personality analysis

Myers-Briggs-Twitter: political personality analysis

The CBC’s Mark Gollom called me a few weeks ago. He wanted my input on a piece he was writing about which Twitter accounts the federal party leaders are following. It was a fun conversation because it allowed us to conduct a pseudo-personality assessment of our leaders based on who they choose (and choose not) to follow on Twitter.

The article has spawned a lively, er, discussion with a significant amount of criticism. Commenters are questioning its newsworthiness. I will assume many people failed to see this as a human interest story about an online tool which is fast becoming something of a bellwether for public opinion measurement and shaping.

People entrenched in digital culture know that even though they may not serve as endorsements, the accounts you follow certainly give some indication of your interests. So, it should be no surprise that what we perceive/know about our federal leaders is fully supported by this theory.

Still, who they follow may not actually be who they follow. While it may be a public declaration of their interests and curiosities, the following shouldn’t be labelled as endorsements (no more than you might believe seeing a movie would declare your endorsement of the work of the entire cast and crew). It’s worth noting that anyone can follow any number of public Twitter accounts without using the “follow” feature just by visiting the user’s Twitter page or adding that account to a private list.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (following 224 accounts)

The Prime Minister follows mostly members of the Conservative caucus and conservative friendlies, some journalists, a few organizations (including the Blue Jays and Canadian Curling Association) and Homer Simpson. Yup. The one account which suggests some pop-culture interests is good old Homer.

There are some interesting finds among the list of accounts the Prime Minister is following. Those include SocialBro (a tool we use at, the Senate of Canada (early warning signs, perhaps), Artists for Autism (a cause dear to the late Finance Minster Jim Flaherty), and the estranged conservative stalwart Dmitri Soudas.

Missing are obvious accounts including those belonging to various chambers of commerce, Canadian innovation and other industry. With the exception of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the PM doesn’t follow any leaders (including President Obama or Prime Minister Cameron). Perhaps the most shocking, given the PM’s fascination with hockey, is there are no hockey teams, leagues or players among the accounts he’s following.

Analysis: Very focused and controlled, mostly business rather than fun, missed opportunities to further declare partnerships, interests and non-political personality.

Thomas Mulcair (following 1,195 accounts)

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair follows the greatest number of Twitter accounts among the “big three” leaders. His following list suggests a wider range of interests than the PM’s. Mr. Mulcair follows members of his caucus, a healthy number of journalists and news organizations from a variety of biases, and a number of economic and sport related accounts including the Economic Club of Canada, Google Canada, Special Olympics and the Juno Beach Centre. Other notable accounts in his following list include those belonging to the Library of Parliament Research team, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and OpenMedia.

Mr. Mulcair follows a number of accounts which boast incomplete profiles, some of which haven’t ever issued a tweet. These jump out on the screen because they may or may not have a human name associated with them and the image is the default Twitter egg (waiting to be hatched into a fully tweeting account).

Analysis: Declaring interest in building relationships with all aspects of corporate and grassroots Canada, aware that people are looking at his accounts to see if he’s really a Canadian leader or a left-leaning leader, sloppy in some of his decisions.

Justin Trudeau (following 753 accounts)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has the most eclectic mix of accounts among the list of accounts he follows. It suggests a much broader range of interests and a lot of affiliation with personalities rather than a laser focus on associations and organizations. So, on top of the requisite caucus members, media and some obvious Canadian institutions and organizations, you’ll see names of Canadian celebrities including Kim Cattrall, Bryan Adams, K’naan, Bif Naked and Kevin Nealon, and athletes including Nicole Garrido and Shannon Rempel.

Mr. Trudeau follows members of other political parties and US politicians including the social media famous Cory Booker. His list includes Michael Sona (charged in connection with the Pierre Poutine scandal) and Conservative strategist Tim Powers. He’s the only of the three big leaders who follows a large number of international celebrities and leaders including George Takei, Salman Rushdie, Stephen King and the Dalai Lama. The fun accounts on his list include Ed the Sock and the Elizabeth Windsor parody account which, today, granted Canada the day off (“You deserve it.”)

He also follows the Blackberry Help account.

Analysis: Grew up with an interest in pop-culture and proud of it recognizing it may help him attract support from historitcally disinterested and disaffected Canadians, perhaps a bit too focused on personality with less declaration of policy strength. Still, he knows digital culture and online success is tightly connected to relatability which builds trust.

CASL compliance, double opt-in and the MailChimp audit trail

CASL compliance, double opt-in and the MailChimp audit trail

I wrote about CASL two days ago. The act comes in to effect on Tuesday (July 1) which means you have two business days to take advantage of the way “things were” before the way things will be kicks in.

It’s a confusing mess, to be sure. Several of my clients are impacted by CASL, each in unique ways. So, it’s hard to say there’s a cookie-cutter approach.

Having said that, using double opt-in and keeping your audit trail is a very safe bet. Double opt-in means potential members complete a form to sign-up for your mailing list, then have to respond in the affirmative to an unbundled confirmation request (e.g. a separate email message to the requestors address to confirm their desire to join the mailing list).

Most mailing list services offer double opt-in. If you haven’t used double opt-in for your mailing list to this point, now is the time to turn it on. And, for your own protection, keep your audit trail of double opt-in sign ups.

I use MailChimp for my own lists and, yesterday, downloaded the audit trail for my own local records. Doing so was simple. Here’s the procedure to capture your audit trail and determine if you’re indeed using double opt-in:

  1. Log in to your MailChimp account in your favourite browser.
  2. Access your Lists from the main administration page (left column).
  3. Select one of your lists by clicking on the list name (right column of the administration page). You will be presented with a table of subscribers for the selected list.
  4. Click the Export List button that appears on the top right, just above the table of subscribers. This is where MailChimp begins to add extraneous steps to the process, making it more complicated than it needs to be.
  5. Open your email client of choice because MailChimp is now going to email you a link to download the exported list of subscribers.
  6. When the email titled MailChimp List Export Complete arrives in your inbox, open it and click on the link prefaced by the text Download the list data. This will kick back to your browser and will automatically begin downloading the file — a zip file.

The zip file will download to your default (or specified) folder. Locate the file and KEEP IT.

The zip file contains a csv file which you can open in any spreadsheet program. Notice one column of the csv is titled OPTIN_TIME. This identifies when the subscription form was initially submitted as complete by the user. Another column is titled CONFIRM_TIME. This identifies when the user clicked on the link in the confirmation email, thus accepting their subscription. That’s two conscious actions… double opt-in.

If you don’t have those two columns, or unique values in each, you’re less likely to be CASL compliant.

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