Few MPs are innovative in their use of digital tools. Most rely on traditional ways of communicating. Even so, MPs who embrace a traditionally-safe (or homogenous) approach to their online activities have their own unique signatures.
Enter Larry Maguire. Most online political watchers will know he represents a cohort of Parliament that doesn’t seem to “get” the power and opportunity of being digitally-engaged. Still, Maguire has an almost-unfair advantage in his website — perhaps the more difficult thing to “get right.” He hasn’t yet figured out how to harness the innate social skills of a politician for his online activities.
The goal of my digital makeover series is altruistic–to help MPs and Parliament do better online. Larry Maguire’s digital makeover shines the light on engaging websites, audience first, and onramps to digital relationship-building.
Larry Maguire’s social media dashboard allows you to follow and filter his social streams.
It’s refreshing to analyse Larry Maguire’s digital ecosystem. I won’t say it’s the best I’ve ever seen, even among MPs. It is certainly noteworthy and introduces many ideas I’ve talked about in the past and a few I hadn’t considered. In fact, there’s so much to explore on his website, alone, that I’ve done a video of me doing a summary of the many qualities that need to be explored. The video is nearly 20 minutes long. Let me highlight just three of the noteworthy features of his site here, and I’ll allow you to watch the video for the rest.
Maguire’s site is bigger than most and it’s worth the size. The menu structure simplifies the complexity of the site for a positive user experience while allowing the politician both to be heard and — and this is the unusual part for MP websites — to hear. Specifically, one menu option invites visitors to “Get Involved” and another (which should be better named) suggests users can contribute their own voices.
The “Your Voice” section is a standout. It provides forms through which visitors can register their opinions and help Maguire prioritize issues of interest
Where almost all MPs treat their website as a digital signpost, brochure or bullhorn, Maguire treats his as a virtual constituency office.
Sadly, the interaction part is hidden in the menu rather than featured as a prominent section on the main page of the site.
Maguire does what he can to offer everything a visitor needs on his site. Clearly his team has considered what constituents will want and they’ve baked it into the site. Things like information about his riding, not just a map and summary of the boundaries. He includes demographic information and contact info for MLAs — though, as I note in the video below, the information is poorly labeled. Information about work he is doing specifically for his constituency is notably absent.
By comparison, most MPs offer nothing more (about their constituency) than a link to Elections Canada.
The “Resources” section of his site is similarly helpful. Among other things, he offers a complete list of federal government departments which include brief explanations of their primary purpose before offering a link to the departmental website.
My biggest concern with his site is that Maguire’s blog is robotic and mind numbing. It’s essentially a home for formulaic third-person official statements and media releases. With the exception of his editorial letters, each post opens with “Larry Maguire…” or “Today, Larry Maguire…” This traditional way of speaking politics may appeal to party faithful, I doubt very much it speaks to constituents and watchers, and even the media, these days.
Maguire has outposts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a second though dormant YouTube channel for his 2013 candidacy, Google+, a second dormant Google+ page and LinkedIn. He links to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube from his website footer, and includes Facebook and Twitter tickers in the right sidebar of his home page. Notable about Maguire’s digital ecosystem is the consistent branding. His three primary properties (the ones he maintains), all boast the vanity-identity LarryMaguireMP.
Maguire’s Twitter and Facebook profiles link to his website while his YouTube channel mentions his website in his bio (not a clickable link). He takes full advantage of the avatar and cover photo for his three primary properties. LinkedIn still lists Maguire as MLA for Arthur-Virden and has no photo.
The following video offers a more thorough look at Maguire’s website including more information on the points raised earlier in this post.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Make the engagement part of your site more obvious. Rename the “Your Voice” section to be more action-oriented, and put a promotional banner/badge/button on your main page to motivate people to be part of your virtual town hall.
- Shutdown your dormant properties. Make sure people find you where you are, not where you were.
- Soften your tone. The language of effective political communication is becoming increasingly informal. Visitors to your site and followers of your social media feeds should be first-person social rather then third-person robotic.
Maguire’s website is rarely updated with fresh content, which may not be a bad thing given the rigid language he appears more comfortable with. This is particularly strange given that he comes across as personable (if a bit scripted) in his videos. The primary problem with his website content is that most of it is extremely old. His most recent photo album dates back to January 2014.
And, some of the third-party videos he shared on his site are no longer online, leaving big holes in his site.
While Maguire does publish enough content on his primary digital outposts to consider them alive, he is not particularly active on social media. Most of his posts seem to satisfy a checklist of political activity.
Still, there are a few posts that stand out.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Keep your website current. If your website looks neglected, it could become less trustworthy. Posting fresh content is important. I also recommend auditing the third-party components on your site periodically. If you find a hole, look to see if the content was relocated by its owner. I suggest that rather than pull holes down, find a way to fill them indicating that the original content was removed and provide a summary and replacement image.
- Keep your social media properties current. Start with posting at least once a week to your Facebook page and three to five times a week on Twitter. Deliver content your audience would be interested in.
- Make that Charlie Brown tree part of your personality. It’s a great hook. Your tree can become part of the narrative in your online posts. Perhaps photograph office visitors with the tree and dress it up for events, votes, etc… It gives your audience another reason to check in on your social feeds.
Participation & community
Maguire’s inconsistent social media use and checklist-approach to his updates may be factors in a rather low-level of online engagement.
Maguire was mentioned in 171 tweets by 120 unique tweeters between October 20 and January 23. That’s extremely low for an MP, particularly one with greater than 2,400 followers.
Like many MPs, I suspect Maguire hasn’t tried understand who actually follows his social media accounts, though uses his follower count as a measure of who he is reaching. A majority of Maguire’s Twitter followers (56%) are from Canada, and 71% are male. His followers generally describe themselves as having an interest in politics, being from Manitoba and having conservative values. Among the other notable terms in their bios are family, father, mom, wife, community, farmer and life. This should inform his messaging and engagement — that he’s reaching his intended audience or needs to think differently to do so.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Inspire engagement. Sharing content that speaks to your constituents and issue-stakeholders will motivate them to do more than read your content (assuming they’re doing that).
- Ask for input. If people aren’t responding to your updates, post questions that invite the sharing of their views.
- Harness the Charlie Brown tree. The more I think about it, the more I believe that little tree can be so much more for your online presence. If nothing else, it could be an onramp for engaging your audience on issues that matter. This is particularly important in Facebook which has created a chicken-and-egg algorithm.
Interruption (the bonus category)
Few MPs exploit the various nooks and crannies of their website. Not only does Maguire use white space in his site to make the important stuff pop-out, he’s used the footer of his site to make sure his social media properties, contact info and constituency services pop-out.