It was suggested to me that my digital makeovers consider the perceived goals of the MP I’m assessing. It’s an interesting idea, though I must admit any effort on my part would only be speculation. I believe most (not all) MPs don’t think about why they’re using social media. I suspect many use it because they think they’re supposed to. At best they use it tactically. Rare is the MP who uses social media strategically.
Rona Ambrose was already a high profile MP and a senior member of the Conservative caucus before the election was called. Her profile increased significantly on November 5 when she was selected as the interim leader of the Conservative party, now the official opposition. If I had to guess, I’d say her social media goals are:
- Redefine the public image of the Conservative party
- Build a groundswell of support for the party
- Take productive steps to give the next elected leader a head start in time for the next election
Justin Trudeau created the conditions for those goals. It’s now a catch-up game for Ms. Ambrose as she tries to overcome the constrained and controlled messaging that defined her party and its recent run as government. This entrenched style of communication will take time to overcome. It will demand more frequent communication with more personality. In her new role, the stakes are much higher.
And with that, here is my digital makeover of Rona Ambrose. As with all of my makeovers, my goal is altruistic–to help MPs and Parliament do better online so our democratic system becomes stronger.
Rona Ambrose has a well-established online presence. Her primary website can be found at RonaAmbrose.com. That domain was first registered in 2003. During the election, she forwarded voterona.ca and voterona.com to her page on the Conservative party website.
Her social media outposts include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ (which she may not realize she has), Instagram and LinkedIn. With the exception of her YouTube channel and Google+ profile (both of which lack vanity URLs), Ambrose’s core digital ecosystem hinges on accounts branded ronaambrose.
Inconsistent identification: Ambrose is MP for Sturgeon River–Parkland, Interim Leader of the Conservative party and Leader of the Official Opposition. However, her complete title is inconsistently applied. Her Facebook About page provides contradictory information on her role while her Instagram account, YouTube channel and Google+ profile lack any written bio. LinkedIn identifies Ambrose in her former role. Twitter is up to date.
Ambrose’s official Parliamentary photo serves as a consistent visual cue on all of her digital properties (except on the Party website and LinkedIn).
Neglected websites: A politician’s website should be the anchor of his/his digital ecosystem. As such, it should host current information, be easy to navigate and visually pleasing. Ambrose’s primary website is a little bit of all of those things, though not perfect in any. The design is still current-ish and I won’t fault any MP whose website is just a little behind fast-moving modern design conventions.
However, her website struggles with a few noticeable problems which matter because she is interim leader. These include prominently-placed images which are low quality with distorted content, prominently-placed images which link to obsolete content, and a bio that focuses on what she did in government while excluding her goals in her current role.
Vanity domain exposure: As of January 10 (yesterday), RonaAmbrose.ca was listed as “for sale”, representing a potential risk to her digital ecosystem and online reputation. Note that due to the nature of this exposure and knowing this makeover could lead someone to purchase the domain, I notified someone in the Conservative caucus who could relay the finding. The real problem seems to be the site is not created where the domain is being hosted.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Make sure your title is accurate across all of your digital properties. Tailor the wording to suit the distinct character of the platform (e.g. Facebook vs. Twitter).
- Use high-quality imagery on your sites. This is particularly important given you are the Interim Leader. Cutting corners on quality sends a horrible message as you lead the rebuilding of your party.
- Own your domains and use them effectively. Where they aren’t distinct web properties of their own, forward them to your primary domain. Which means it’s time to forward VoteRona.ca and VoteRona.com to your primary website (rather than the party page).
As with many MPs, Rona Ambrose’s online strength lies in Twitter. She’s not as active as many of her House of Commons colleagues (Ambrose issued 274 tweets between August 2, 2015 and January 9, 2016).
Ambrose does a pretty good job of mixing political, policy and personal updates. I particularly like that she is both critical of and shines a positive light on other parties and their members. Still, a surprising number of her political and policy tweets are stiff.
Part of the problem appears to be a concerted effort to communicate in both official languages which either creates lengthy bilingual posts, or duplicate posts (one in each language).
Her overall approach to Facebook suggests she frequently confuses social media with newswire services.
Her YouTube videos aren’t much better. The few that exist (most recently is National Aboriginal Day, June 16, 2015) feel scripted and read — they don’t convey sincere feelings. Ambrose feels more relatable in a video of her bailing hay, posted to Facebook on September 19, 2015.
Photos posted to Ambrose’s Instagram account are sharp. As with most of her Facebook posts, the accompanying text suggest the image is another item on the political messaging checklist.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Strike a balance between English and French. It’s an incredibly difficult problem to address easily. Most obviously it’s a choice between making things convenient for you or your Facebook community. You’ll need a creative solution.
- Be relatably-you. All eyes and ears are on you as the interim leader of a party that is in a state of personality turmoil. Canadians have made it known that they want more relatable and visible interactions. You won’t achieve that by coming across as scripted. Treat Facebook as a social media platform, not a newswire service. Make your official information social. Think more along the lines of what you’re doing with Twitter, without doing the same things.
- Show your point of view. Political watchers (and Canadians in general) can already see you in action on the news. Use social platforms to let people see the world and your policies through your eyes — more photos and statements by you, fewer of you or for you.
Participation & community
Ambrose’s online profile is much smaller than many MPs–and I’m not talking about how many followers any one of her social media profiles boasts. I’m talking about the level of attention any of her posts commands. According to analysis conducted using 76insights, Ambrose has struggled to get much interaction with her content.
I expected to see a bump in engagement after her appointment as interim leader on November 5. At best, it gave two of her posts an extra boost. The two posts in question were published to Facebook in response to the November 13 attacks in Paris. Her “off the cuff” post on the 13th earned nearly 4.8K interactions, and her official statement on November 14 earned 4.7K interactions. Most of her other content has commanded little extra attention.
Her average post resonance is 201.
Ambrose is not known for being engaged online. She doesn’t participate in the comment threads of her Facebook posts or engage with others on Twitter.
Her Twitter activity is made up largely of regular tweets (81%, essentially broadcasting) with some retweets (18%). According to Sysomos, Ambrose issued two replies between Aug 2 and Jan 9. It turns out they only look like replies. They’re actually tweets that begin with an individual’s Twitter handle.
Few MPs know much about their online communities beyond the number of people following any given account. Many use their follower count as a measure of their online relevance. That’s flawed thinking, and it dismisses how much one can learn by analyzing their online followings. Among other things, a proper analysis helps determine to whom the account matters, what messages are resonating with the public and when, and who they might reach out to, how and with which messages.
Using Affinio, I’ve identified and organized Ms. Ambrose’s Twitter following into tribes. The tribes are determined by analyzing account bios, and inferred interests based on which Twitter accounts they follow and the type of Twitter conversations in which they participate. A proper analysis can take a significant amount of time and can be quite informative. For this post I’ve done a reasonably quick analysis.
Ambrose’s Twitter following is made up of eight tribes: Calgary-based politically interested (7%), health/medicine focused (8%), conservative (9%), Edmonton-based politically interested (9%), Ontario-based politically interested (9%), academics/students which includes researchers and analysts (13%), women (18%), and news/politics (27%).
Overall, 76% of Ambrose’s following are lurkers which the Affinio defines as Twitter users who issue fewer than 15 tweets per month. Interestingly, the academics/students tribe has the highest lurker ranking (88%) and the conservative tribe the lowest (61%).
Affinio also allows me to look at how “friendly” each tribe is and the strength of their shared interests. Using this we can understand how likely members of this tribe are to know one another. This can create conditions in which followers are more likely to share see messages among each other. Combined with the “lurker” data, this can help understand where it might be necessary to take a different approach to get a message seen, shared and acted on.
For example, the Ontario poli tribe is apparently well connected and has a very high shared interests rating, though just shy of 18% are active participants in Twitter exchanges. The Women tribe presents an even bigger challenge given it is the least-interconnected group and only 12% are active tweeters. Further, the Women tribe has the lowest rating of shared interests within the tribe which means they may not all be interested in the same women’s issues.
Recent conversations within the Women tribe include travel, Star Wars and Donald Trump. The Ontario poli tribe was six times more likely to mention Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, 13 times more likely to mention the Ontario PC party, and two times more likely to mention journalists Paul Wells and Rosie Barton than any other tribe.
Meanwhile, a majority of Twitter accounts Rona Ambrose follows are those of other politicians, some journalists and sports figures.
THREE OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Study the data and build a relevant online strategy. This is particularly important if you’re going to be successful helping to rebrand and rebuild your party. Focus on demographics and interests, and develop messages that will resonate.
- Be part of your community. Taking a broadcast approach puts you on a stage in front of the room rather than mingling with the people in it. Like any town hall, you need to shake hands and kiss babies, so to speak.
- Integrate traditional and digital in a way that ensures the two complement each other. Digital is not traditional and treating it as though it is will weaken your online position.
Interruption (the bonus category)
Stylistically, Ambrose’s Instagram page boasts a nice flow through a monochrome look and feel. I’d be interested to know if it that was a conscious decision or a happy accident. It looks slick!
At the beginning of this post I identified what I believe should be Ms. Ambrose’s digital goals. Based on my assessment, the foundation of these goals still need to be identified and formed. In fairness, things changed dramatically in our Parliament on October 19th. I expect almost every MP is going through a redefinition process.
The clock is ticking, though, and It won’t get any easier when the 42nd Parliament continues to roll in two weeks.