The types of social media updates every elected official should be posting

If you look at your Facebook and Twitter feed of elected officials, I’d guarantee you can categorize most of the types of update that they put out.  Generally speaking, they fall into one or more of a few broad categories.  Of course, the more important question is this: why does what category someone posts in matter?

Two reasons:

  • You never want to have too many updates of the same type.  It gets boring.
  • Knowing the categories can help you determine new and different types of content.  This, of course, can help keep your page fresh, interesting and interactive.

So, to that end, here are a few types of social media updates that any elected official should post.  Keep in mind, of course, that this is not a complete list.

Event:  If you are participating an event, take a picture and upload it.  Or share a quote.  Or use Soundcloud to upload your remarks.  But let people know where you are and what you are doing.

Out and about:  By “event,” I mean a formal event in which your participation is noted ahead of time and your remarks, if any, are likely scripted.  By out and about, I mean that you are just somewhere in the community (an anchor store, a Farmer’s Market, etc).  Take a picture.  Check-in.  Just show people that you are moving.

Constituent Oriented:  Have a cool constituent program that you want to share?  Or a cool constituent story?  Get permission first, then share it!  It’s always good to show how constituent oriented your office is.

Legislative/policy:  These type of updates center around a specific piece of legislation or policy and usually involve an elected taking a stance one way or another.  Be warned, these are usually the types of updates that are most likely to get you into an argument, and these are the type of statements that can come back to haunt you in a campaign mailer.  Use these with caution.

Personal:  Please, please don’t be a robot.  Be personal.  Every now and then, it’s okay to share something funny or show the world a picture of your kids.  I’ve said it a million times and will say it a million more: People like knowing that their elected officials are real human beings that have more to do than just be elected officials.

What do you think?  Anything you want to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Should a politician blog?

In most cases, social media use for elected officials is both natural and a no brainer.  Facebook, Twitter and the like have countless applications for those who represent the public.  Where things start to get a little murkier, however, is when it comes to blogging.  I don’t see a ton of local elected officials who have a blog that focuses on their experiences in office, and I’m certainly among that group – while I run this blog, I don’t have one that focuses on my specific role as State Representative.  I’m not saying that a blog has no use, but I do think more caution needs to go into starting and operating one, as opposed to using Facebook or Twitter.

Why should an elected official blog?  And why not?  Here are some thoughts:

Pros:

  • In-depth posting: Twitter and Facebook updates have to be short to get to the point.  There is usually no room for nuance or details in these types of format.  Blogs, however, offer a longer format and more in-depth look at any topic  Of course, this has its drawbacks too – if you are too long, no one will listen!
  • Easy integration:  Blogs can easily be integrated with our social media efforts, and with your website.  To that end, a blog entry can become part of any multimedia strategy.

Cons:

  • Time commitment: Doing a regular blog entry takes a lot of time, and sometimes it also takes a good chunk of research and editing.  To that end, carving out enough time to always blog can be difficult – trust me on that!
  • More skill is required: Getting Facebook and Twitter right involves a little bit of time and experience.  Blogging right, however, is more difficult, particularly when it comes to formatting, using hyperlinks, inserting pictures, etc.
  • Commenters:  As we’ve previously discussed, online commenters are frequently just the worst kinds of people.  If you are an elected official and you blog, you are almost guaranteed to get trolls commenting.  Disabling comments is one possible solution, but I don’t advise that – you look like you aren’t willing to hear back from the public.  A happy medium is to make it so no one can comment anonymously.  That tends to slow down the worst commenters while still leaving room for a constructive dialog.
  • Easier to get yourself into trouble:  More space can sometimes equal more problems.  Going into a long, in-depth post can sometimes leave more room for comments that, in one way or another, can get you into trouble.

My advice?  Only blog these two circumstances:

  1. You have plenty of time on your hands, or a staff that can maintain the blog.  If you have staff working on the blog, make sure that you disclose that in your blog.
  2. You have a major readership that would make such a time investment useful, or you know you can touch a large segment of your constituents with the blog.

Do you think I have this wrong?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

The best of the rest: Social networks that elected officials probably aren’t using but may want to

Everyone knows about Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.  These are, of course, the most popular social networks right now, and as a result, they are great places for you to invest your valuable time when it comes to connecting with your constituents via social media.  However, they are not the be-all, end-all in this arena.  To that end, here’s a brief look at some niche social networks – and ones that may be worth your investment:

Ask.fm:  The premise here is easy: Ask a question, and get a response.  To that end, you can use the network to solicit feedback, generate ideas and answer questions from others.  That being said, Ask.fm has had its share of issues – in 2013, it was linked to nine cyber-bullying deaths.  If question and answer services are really your thing, Quora may be the better way to go.

SnapchatSnapchat allows for you to send a text message, with a picture, that deletes after a set period of time.  To that end, it has built a somewhat seedy reputation as a service primarily used for sexting.  However, that reputation is not entirely fair, and Snapchat is a great way to connect with constituents (particularly younger ones) in a non-traditional method.  You can send group texts via Snapchat – this allows for mass-communication and for you to broadcast a message to a large group of people.

Tumblr:  Tumblr is blogging gone easy.  It’s format is slightly different than other blogging services in that it is more stripped down.  As a result, it’s easier to maintain and to use.  It’s format tends to be very image and video friendly, which is certainly a preferred way to communicate if you are going to blog.  It also has a “reblogging” function that integrates one of Twitter’s best functions – the retweet.  However, if you are looking for a format that is better for more in-depth blog entries, other formats (like WordPress, which is what I use) may be more preferable.

SoundcloudSoundcloud allows for audio files to be uploaded and shared.  To that end, it is great for music but can also work well for speeches that can be easily integrated onto your website or other social networking platforms.  Even better is that you can record an audio file from your iPhone, which makes it easy for you to speak into your phone and go.  I maintain that YouTube is a better option, but if you can’t get a camera working, this is a good way to go.

Any others to add?  Agree or disagree with any of these?  Let me know in the comments!

Why you should post letters where you disagree with your constituents

I have a habit on Facebook that could very easily get me into a heated debate, but 90% of the time, goes very well.  Maybe it’s a reflection of my district, but the vast majority of times, when I hear from my constituents, I agree with the positions they are asking me to take: more funding for education, in favor of gay marriage, in opposition to drilling for Marcellus Shale on state park lands, etc.

However, this isn’t always the case.  I always make it a practice to write back to my constituents, even if I disagree with them.  If someone is going to take the time to connect with their elected officials, than I am absolutely going to give them the courtesy of reaching back out, even if what I have to say isn’t what they want to hear.

Sometimes, depending on the issue, I take it one step further: I post the response letter (minus the constituent’s contact info) to Facebook, and link to Twitter as well.  Here’s why:

1) Breakthrough the clutter:  Anyone who follows any elected official on social media sees plenty of self-serving, self-aggrandizing posts.  That’s the nature of the beast, and to some extent, the nature of politics in general; elected officials try to appease their constituents.  To a certain degree, these letters involve elected officials stating my position.  But it’s doing so in a different way – stating agreement with one position by showing disagreement with another.  In that sense, it is very different than the usual and helps to capture attention.

2)  Show you aren’t afraid:  Not only is this post good at cutting through the clutter, but it’s good at showing that you aren’t afraid of being honest and blunt with your constituents, even when you disagree with them.  One of the things that struck me every time I have made a post like this is that people have said, “Wow, I don’t agree with you at all, but good for you for being honest.”  I think people are absolutely convinced that no one in government is honest with them and that everyone is telling them only what they want to hear.  A former elected official once told me that people will forgive disagreement, but they won’t forgive being lied to.  Think about how many politicians are popular because they express disagreement.

Of course, engaging in a strategy like this requires that you actually aren’t afraid of showing your disagreement.  That one is up to you.

3) Gain likes and engagement: For the reasons stated above, posts like this are more likely to gain likes, comments and shares.  This creates engagement, which helps the post be seen by more people, which helps increase your reach.

My experience with these posts? I’ve done three: one on gay marriage, one on making English the official language of America and one on Planned Parenthood.  Two of them (the gay marriage and Planned Parenthood post) have been my most popular posts ever, particularly the gay marriage post, which was shared over 200 times.  One note here: if you are going to post a letter of disagreement, prepare to be disagreed with!  People will respond in the comments section with their own disagreement and displeasure, and you need to be prepared to respond or ignore.  Whether or not I would engage in a civil discussion with someone disagreeing depended on their tone: calm, sure, let’s talk; crazy and insulting, you’re getting ignored.

Any thoughts to add?  Think this is a good or bad idea?  Let me know in the comments!

Florida Prosecutor: “Happy Mothers day to all the crack hoes out there.”

Ken Lewis

 

Well, that’s one way to get attention.

The above post comes from Kenneth Lewis, who is an assistant state attorney in Florida.  He made that Facebook post on Mothers’ Day.  As noted by Jezebel, this isn’t the first of the more off-color posts that Lewis has made.  Other highlights include:

  • A post that implied that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer only got her position because of a Affirmative Action.
  • Encouraging people to support free speech by changing their profile pictures to Donald Sterling.
  • Articles blasting ESPN for their Michael Sam coverage.

However, an important note: While the posts can safely be categorized as repugnant, offensive and demeaning, there is nothing illegal or threatening about them.  If I were Lewis’ boss, I’d certainly question his judgement, and thus his ability to perform his job, but I wouldn’t fire him simply because of his controversial remarks.  Whether we like what someone says or not, people have a right to express their opinion.

That’s a tact that Lewis’ boss, State Attorney Jeff Ashton, seems to be taking.  In a statement, Ashton said:

I have been made aware of certain statements attributed to Assistant State Attorney Kenneth Lewis on social media.  I do not agree with the political sentiments expressed by him and I find some of the words he chose to be both offensive and dehumanizing.  Political speech is protected by the first amendment of the United States Constitution and I do not police the private thoughts, views or expressions of those in my employ.”

It got even more embarrassing for Lewis, who then had to speak at a press conference about the issue.  At the press conference, Lewis admitted that his post was a “poor choice of words,” and apologized to all he had “unintentionally offended.”  However, he also said that the post was taken out of context (not quite sure what context would make such a post acceptable, but alrighty) and stood by his “intended message.”  Lewis then attacked the press for covering him, not the people who actually did crack and the consequences to their children.  Perhaps the most telling part of the press conference:

Asked if he believed he deserved a reprimand, Lewis was blunt: “I think I’ve been reprimanded enough by having to endure this press conference.”

This story is makes for an interesting comparison to the story I wrote about yesterday in Kansas, where professors can now be fired for making posts that are “contrary to the interests of their employer.”  My preference, without question, is what happened here.  Again, though what Lewis is unquestionably offensive, he didn’t do anything illegal, and people have a right in America to say offensive things.  That being said, there is no freedom from consequences in this country, and Attorney Lewis did find himself the subject of national humiliation.

What do you think?  Was this one handled right? Let me know in the comments.

Kansas adopts new social media policy that limits free speech for professors

Well, this is a bit scary.  Kansas’ Board of Regents, which governs its university system, just revised its social media policy:

A revised social media policy approved by the Kansas Board of Regents allows a university to suspend or fire an employee for making statements on social media that are “contrary to the best interests of the employer.

In other words, you can be fired for what you tweet.  It is important to note that schools “must follow the principle of academic freedom” when enforcing such policy.

This idea is nothing new – indeed, government employees can be fired for ill-advised tweets, as can their counterparts in the private sector.  What is frightening about this new policy, however, is its breadth.  This started because David Guth, a journalism professor at Kansas University, made this astoundingly inappropriate tweet after the Naval Yard shooting last year:

DavidGuth

I don’t necessarily think its inappropriate for governments to act like their private-sector counterparts in terms of setting appropriate limits on things that cannot be tweeted by employees.  By appropriate, I mean anything directly threatening or tweeting confidential information.  The problem I have with a policy like the one adopted is how broad it is.  Who defines the “best interests of the employer?”  Does that mean the best interests of the Governor?  So, what if a professor tweets something against the Governor or the party of the Governor?  Can they be fired?  That’s downright scary.  A policy like this could pretty easily be seen as having a chilling effect on free speech, and that is clearly a major problem.

We are still in the “brave new world” of social media interactions, and I think it’s safe to say that employers, both private and public, are still struggling to determine the appropriate balance of free speech and protecting their own interests.  That being said, as far as I am concerned, employers should always err on the side of free speech.  This policy is scary to me.

What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments!

Poll: The biggest political and social media fail so far?

Alright, we’ve been at this about six months, so I’d love to hear from you!

For background information: