NDP MP Kennedy Stewart joined Twitter in 2009. He became active on Facebook on June 14, 2011, a little over a month after our 41st general election. Back then his Twitter and Facebook accounts seemed to mirror each other.
He has greater digital achievements to his credit. Stewart championed the creation of an official Parliament electronic petition (e-petition) system which considers both the technology and process. It exists today.
All of that to say, there are many reasons to believe Kennedy Stewart has a good grasp of digital and is operating with a well-thought strategy. Dig deeper and you’ll find otherwise.
The goal of my digital makeover series is altruistic–to help MPs and Parliament do better online. Kennedy Stewart’s digital makeover rails against patchwork strategy, highlights the importance of an anchor website and praises brave creativity.
Perhaps it’s pure chance that Kennedy Stewart’s NDP webpage was missing between February 5 and 7 (the days over which I conducted analysis of his digital ecosystem) and his vanity URL (KennedyStewart.ca) was pointing to his Facebook page. However, I can only analyze what is available and make assumptions to fill in the gaps.
Stewart’s digital ecosystem as it stands is a liability for the MP — links don’t work and his website descriptions in Google search results probably steer people away.
Perhaps Stewart is taking a different approach to online communication and engagement. Perhaps he views Facebook as the place to be, relying on that platform as the primary place for all of his content. Proof may include the absence of a YouTube channel or Instagram account, though this is not necessarily the case as not all MPs maintain a presence on either.
I’m not enthusiastic about Stewart’s apparent approach for several reasons. First, it assumes a social platform can be a logical hub of information. Second, and more importantly, it’s a leap of faith that Facebook is a trustworthy caretaker of your content and its presentation. Facebook has proven it is not up to this task. The service often changes the way it manages the delivery and privacy of content. Further, it’s near-impossible to search for information on Facebook. It’s like trying to turn Bill C-31 into a cocktail party.
Stewart has been creative in his use of the Facebook masthead. His contact information jumps out of a bright orange box in the field of view with a bright “Sign Up” call to action button just below. Whose eyes wouldn’t naturally go there?
This is where things get strange, though. The Sign Up button takes visitors to an inside page of his NationBuilder-hosted website. The home page link on this page takes visitors back to Facebook. That’s a strange mix-and-match of component pieces of his ecosystem and causes one to wonder what his digital strategy really is.
His Facebook About page accurately describes him and his role in the NDP caucus. While his constituency office phone number and Parliamentary email address appear, he doesn’t offer a street addresses in text form so it can be copied and pasted (rather than retyped).
Stewart’s Twitter profile is well put-together and links to his Facebook page (via his redirected vanity URL).
Clearly Stewart knows he has a Google+ profile since he invested the time in completing the profile information. It looks slick even if the property has always been dormant. The only activity it ever saw was the uploading of his profile photo.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Get your party website back up. Its absence makes one question if you’re still a member of the caucus.
- Reconsider the importance of Facebook as the centrepiece of your digital ecosystem. It’s unclear what role any of your properties currently play. And, Facebook is not the place to send people for an historical account of the work you’re involved in.
- Get rid of Flickr and Google+. You’re not using them and you still have to do better with the properties you are using.
By relying exclusively on social media for his online presence, Kennedy Stewart has decided that his entire ecosystem depends on content. He’s generally doing well in this regard, and seems to have taken notable steps in this direction. For example, he recently started using Facebook Notes the way most MPs use the media section or blog component of their websites. Like other MPs though, Stewart is using traditional and tired language as a writing crutch. This will have little if any appeal on a social platform.
Most of Stewart’s Facebook posts are partisan and present followers with a cascade of political issues. For variety, Stewart promotes the official Parliamentary electronic petition service he championed.
Most of his video clips show Stewart in action during Question Period. He also has an official holiday greetings video. A standout among is his catalog is a short and partly-animated promotion of the Parliamentary e-petition service. It’s worth a watch — and should be on YouTube, the Internet’s second biggest search engine.
Stewart’s use of Twitter has been generally low since the election. According to analysis I conducted using Sysomos MAP, it seems he’s made the decision to be more active in 2016.
Stewart’s tweets showcase a mix of political and personal interests (his Facebook posts are much more partisan-focused). He recently initiated a Twitter campaign to highlight the more-than-500 Statistics Canada products that were cancelled by the previous government, an effort he hopes will help motivate the Liberals to conduct a review.
Back in 2011, Stewart posted a photo of himself settled in to listen to music recommendations. Recently, he issued tweets about his current musical favourites.
Seeing that stream of “new favourite” songs offers some insights into Stewart’s musical taste and his personality. One would never guess from this list that Stewart is a Motorhead fan.
Stewart offers more clues that he’s putting most of his digital eggs in the Facebook basket. His Flickr account has been stagnant since 2011.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Mix up your Facebook posts. Building a community means striking the balance of specific focus and broader interests. Sometimes you need an onramp to get people engaged. Furthermore, being too focused means you’re less likely to appeal to a larger audience and risk driving your existing audience into fatigue.
- Continue producing creative content. Clunky text tends to go unread. Official videos tend to go unwatched. And, neither get people talking. Your e-petition video is a better candidate to be appreciated. You haven’t promoted it yet which is unfortunate because its January 1 release date probably prevented it from getting noticed (as reflect in its view count).
- Publish for social. If you’re putting content on a social platform, write and produce for social scenarios and audiences. You wouldn’t talk in a coffee shop the way you’ve written your Facebook Notes.
Participation & community
As active as he is online, and as committed as he is to giving Canadians digital tools that facilitate democratic engagement, Stewart’s activities suggest he sees social media as a bullhorn rather than gathering places for interaction.
Updates about specific political issues have attracted attention. So have updates that resonate on a more personal level.
Given his commitment to involving Canadians in the political system, I’m surprised how little he does to engage with them.
Perhaps he hasn’t taken time to study his online following to understand who follows him and why, and how he can cast a wider net.
Despite all of my criticisms of Stewart’s style, he does use a number of tools better than other MPs. He’s been using Facebook Events to promote gatherings and events to help NDP candidates.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Be social. It appears you’re confining your digital ecosystem to social platforms. You will have to lead by example if you want to extract engagement with your constituents and issue stakeholders. And, on social media, that’s what you want to do.
- Use onramps. Sharing your favourite song is great. Getting into a dialog with others about favourite songs is a door opener. You have 4,813 Facebook fans and 5,562 Twitter followers and you don’t seem to have the attention of many.
- Share other people’s content. Retweeting and sharing FB posts with your own commentary added shows that you’re engaged and opens the doors for more activity with your community.
Interruption (the bonus category)
The ability to run a poll natively in Twitter is a relatively new feature. Stewart gave it a whirl on February 5 (just two days before I wrote this post) and it quickly became his most popular tweet. This is notable for a few reasons:
- Stewart’s style is largely broadcast in nature. This was an effort to engage his audience.
- A public poll of this nature invites all forms of opinions, not just the one you may be seeking support for. Further, it can become a magnet for a coordinated effort by an interest group itching to skew the results.
Nevertheless, it is a tool in the digital toolkit for MPs.