Social Media Logo Collage

2015 trends for politics and social media

Well, here it is: 2014 is coming to and end.  And, as a blog writer, I feel that I have a moral obligation to take a look at the year to come.

2014 was a very exciting year for social media and politics: more elected officials got active and more constituents turned to social media to connect with their government leaders.  That being said, social media is a constantly evolving field – and one of the things I’ve noticed when it comes to social media and government is that we tend to be behind the times.  Generally speaking, I think that government is slower to adapt to social media trends (really, tech trends in general) than the private sector.

That being said, keeping up to date with social media trends is about more than just good politics – it’s good policy and good democracy. Government officials need to use social media to be where our constituents are.

So, here are a few trends I think elected leaders need to watch out for when it comes to social media and politics:

  • Decline of Facebook reach and push to other networks: Facebook is throttling back organic (free) reach from its fan pages – so, if you want your updates to be seen, you’re going to have to pay.  For campaigns, this is doable – for governments, frequently not.  So what does this mean?  Well, it’s going to shift content away from Facebook and more towards other networks, like Twitter and Instagram. It’s also going to force an increased use of Email, which, despite repeated predictions, isn’t going away anytime soon.
  • Increase use of paid ads: Facebook is still the place to be – it has over 1.3 billion users (and even more over its other digital properties), which means that it’s worth using, and if you’re gonna use it, you’re going to have to pay.  Facebook ad revenue has been dramatically increasing, and this is going to continue in 2015, particularly among campaigns.
  • Rise of Instagram: One of the sleeper social media stories of 2014 happened at the end of the year with the news that Instagram now has more Monthly Active Users than Twitter.  That’s not to say that Twitter is in trouble, but it does show that the picture-oriented network is here to stay, and as users flock to it, you can expect more in government to follow them.
  • Integration of social media and donations: Facebook recently introduced Call to Action buttons and Twitter is looking at doing the same, making the transition from social media to your wallet even more seamless.  There’s a campaign implication here: It won’t be long before “Donate Now!” is a button for campaigns.

Did I miss anything? What are your thoughts?  Please let us know in the comments – and thanks for reading!  This blog has been a fantastic experience for me – it’s helped me learn quite a good deal, and I hope I’ve been able to relay some of that information to you in a manner that has helped you become a better communicator.  Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing!

Happy New Year!

Using Facebook analytics to improve your page

In yesterday’s blog entry, I discussed how I used Twitter’s free analytics tool to improve my Twitter performance.  Here’s some tips on how to do the same thing with Facebook’s Insights.  I’ve found that this is an even more powerful tool than Twitter’s analytics, but that’s largely a function of information collected: Facebook collects more demographic info and can thus give you more robust analytics.

Something to keep in mind with Facebook pages: Facebook is seriously throttling back on “organic” (free) page reach.  It’s making you advertise to get your page seen. Facebook ads can be fantastic tools, but they obviously cost money, which means that if you are looking for free, you’re going to need to focus your efforts elsewhere.  Platforms like Twitter, blogging and Email lists can certainly expect to gain power in the face of Facebook’s business decision.

Anyway, here’s what I gathered when I look at the page analytics for my Mike Schlossberg Social Media.

Page reach

In reviewing my five most popular posts, I was able to get a general idea of what type of content was seen by the most people.  The answer was a little bit of a downer: Social media fails that involved violence, sex, racism and tragedy drove the most traffic.  Oh well.  No surprise.

Most engagement

This is what posts got the most likes, comments, shares or clicks.  Unsurprisingly, the posts that had the most reach also had the most engagement.

When fans are online

This was a very useful statistic.  The analysis showed me that my fans have spikes in activity at 11am, 4pm and 8pm.  I’ll start gearing my content to appear during those times.

Fan demographics

Here’s where things got a little bit confusing. In terms of my overall fans, my fan base slants heavily towards women (more so than the Facebook average, which also slants towards women).  In terms of ages, the highest group were those aged 45-54, then 25-34.  However, in terms of people reached, the demographics were much younger, with 25-34 year olds far and away being the most engaged. Even more interesting: in terms of engagement, 45-54 year olds engage the most!

What’s the take away?  I have a mismatch in a variety of respects. My fanbase isn’t so large that I need to try to resolve this (I only have 430 fans), and I’m not going to sweat it too much, but if this persisted if and when I break 1,000 fans, I’d be concerned.  Ideally, I think your fan demographics, reach and engagement should align – otherwise you are not speaking to the demographic that you should be.

Traffic referrers

Email was the top was that people are reaching my page – I do run a weekly Email newsletter (which you can sign up for!), so that makes sense.  Knowing this, I’m going to make a more obvious push for my Facebook page in the next couple Emails and see if that gets me more fans.

So, that’s my page.  How about yours – have you run a similar analysis?  What did you find?  Let us know in the comments!

Twitter Logo

How you can use Twitter’s analytics to make your Twitter use more powerful

Twitter recently unveiled a free (and very powerful) analytics tool that gives ordinary users a chance to see which of their tweets work, and which ones don’t.  I highly recommend that everyone who cares about the effectiveness of their Twitter account spend some time reviewing the analytics tool, located at analytics.twitter.com.

I spent about 30 minutes reviewing my results the other day.  Here’s what I did and what I learned:

To get started

  • Using the “export data” button in the top-right corner, I downloaded all of my tweets into a nice excel spreadsheet.
  • I then deleted everything that wasn’t in the past 90 days to avoid suffering from analysis paralysis.

Timing

My first question: When are my tweets seen the most?  I sorted the column by engagement rate and determined that, for me, the answer was the morning, easily.  I also learned that weekends are not nearly as effective, for me, as tweeting during the week.  This says something to me about my audience: it tends to use Twitter more as a professional tool, rather than a personal one.

Engagement – What works and what doesn’t

Next, I reviewed my highest engaged tweets for ideas on what content works, and what doesn’t.  This took some subjective review and roughly categorizing tweets into categories (“controversial political statements,” “blog updates,” etc).  For me, what worked the most:

  • Tweets that referred to conversations that were already occurring (people wanted to jump in!).
  • Social media scandals that were occurring as I tweeted them (Takeaway: Live content builds engagement).
  • Social media scandals.
  • Use of hashtags, pictures or links.

Remember, Twitter defines engagement as anytime a tweet is clicked on, expanded or replied to…engagement, simply put, means interaction.

As for what didn’t work:

  • Wistful tweets…the equivalent of me talking to myself.  Noted.
  • One-off comments that have nothing to do with anything and appear out of place in my timeline.  Again, I should have figured that one out on my own!

Retweets

  • Controversial information
  • Cool personal information
  • Breaking news items

I did more analysis of other categories as well, including:

  • Content that got the most replies
  • Content that got the most favorites
  • Profile clicks
  • URL clicks
  • Hashtag clicks
  • Detail expands
  • Media clicks

By the way, please do not use my analysis in place of yours. Every Twitter audience – and every Twitter account, will be different.  I offer this as a template for you to conduct your own analysis.

Have you given this tool a review? What do you think – how did your analysis go?

LovelyWarren Facebook

Rochester Mayor to activists: “Stay in your lane”

What is it with New York politicians saying that their accounts were hacked?

Just days after Steve Bellone, the County Executive of Suffolk, New York, said that someone hacked his Twitter account in order to follow a porn star, the Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, is saying the same thing happened to her.

The background: Warren’s official Facebook account received messages from Robert Wright DeSimone, an activist who was upset over Rochester’s removal of a homelessness encampment.  DeSimone sent the Mayor a series of Facebook messages, calling her office a “joke” and scolding her for the removal.  According to screenshots from DeSimone, Mayor Warren’s account responded as such:

LovelyWarren Facebook

When contacted by the media, DeSimone said that he was one of many activists who sent Mayor Warren similar messages and everyone received identical responses, except for the last line, which was unique to DeSimone.

Interestingly, this exchange resulted in the deactivation of Warren’s Facebook & Twitter accounts.  The Mayor’s spokesperson says that no one from their office was behind sending that last line of text: several people have access to the Facebook account and they were “working hard” to see who had sent the message.

This is an interesting one.  There are a few possibilities for what really happened:

  • Mayor Warren or another staffer actually got ticked and sent the last message. They know exactly who sent the message and are scrambling to cover it up.
  • Someone with access to the account sent the message, and they really have no idea who.

I’m actually inclined to think the later.  Why?  Because the accounts are gone. That only happens when you are scared that someone can speak on your behalf and you have no idea who will do so – and thus, no control over what gets said.  Yikes.

Some takeaways:

  • Limit who has access to your social media accounts. Whoever can speak on your behalf on social media essentially has access to your voice.  Your voice should be carefully guarded and protected, and the above story shows why.
  • Maybe a disgruntled staffer was involved here?  Change the password frequently, and make sure to change it when you switch staff.

Do you have any idea what happened here?  Any thoughts to offer as an explanation?  Let us know in the comments!

New York County Executive gets caught following porn star on Twitter, claims he was hacked

Politicians and porn are not a good mix, and Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive (NY) just found himself in hot water when word broke that he was using his Twitter account to follow porn star Belle Knox.

Bellone’s response?  I’ve been hacked!  Said spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter:

County Executive Bellone’s Twitter account, which is operated by his staff, has been hacked and an obscene Twitter account was subsequently followed.  A formal complaint has been filed with Twitter and to the third-party software used to assist in managing the account. His staff has instituted stricter security protocols to ensure an incident like this does not happen in the future.

It’s worth noting that Bellone’s staff said that the account is operated by staff, not the County Executive himself.

As for the claim itself: oh no, it’s the magic hacking fairy!  You know, the one who hacks into an account to do no damage other than to have the hacked account follow a porn star, something that no one would notice unless they really looked.

This is an absurd explanation.  Is it technically possible?  Yes, of course.  Politicians accounts are perpetual targets for hackings – @BarackObama was even hacked once.  However, the Obama example provides a perfect explanation about why this case probably wasn’t a hacking: When the President’s Twitter account was hacked, it directed people to pro-Assad Syria videos.  That’s because when someone hacks into an account, they will do something obvious to make a statement and have the hack noticed.  They will not subtly have the hacked account follow a random porn star.

What is far more likely is that someone who Bellone follows retweeted a tweet from Knox, and Bellone, while clicking through his timeline, accidentally clicked the follow button.  This is a very easy mistake to make and happens all the time.

Of course, it’s also possible that Bellone just followed the porn star and didn’t think anyone would notice.

By the way, Bellone is not the first New York politician to claim that he was hacked. When Congressman Anthony Weiner first sent out the tweet of his boxer-covered genitalia – the one that would eventually end his career – he also claimed he was hacked:

WeinerHackedTweet

He went so far as to spend $45,000 to investigate the “hacking” – when, in reality, he had sent the tweet.

Remember how well that went for him?

Is it possible that Bellone’s Twitter account was hacked? Sure.  But it’s highly unlikely that someone would hack into an account for the sole purpose of following a single porn star.

Philadelphia paramedic posts picture of police officer with two guns pointed at his head

Philadelphia Paramedic Marcell Salters is in deep, deep trouble after a bizarre and offensive Instagram post.

Here’s the post:

Marcell Salters Instagram

The scene depicted in the photo is from the music video for “Hands Up” by Maino.  The caption which Salters added reads “Our real enemy… need 2 stop pointing guns at each other & at the ones that’s legally killing innocents”

This, clearly, was a terrible, terrible idea. Salters deleted the photo the day after it was posted, but the damage had already been done.  What makes the post even more bizarre is that Salters, as a paramedic, regularly works with police; his paramedic HQ even shares a building with a West Philadelphia police precinct.

Salters took to Facebook to apologize for the post:

Marcell Salters Facebook Apology

As you can imagine, the photo and caption were blasted by everyone.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said:

In the strongest possible terms, I condemn the behavior of a paramedic in the Philadelphia Fire Department who used social media to post a reprehensible message and photo that targeted police officers particularly at a time of emotional volatility and citizen protests in our nation in the wake of tragedies in Ferguson and New York City.

The post was also condemned by Police Union President John McNesby:

It’s despicable, and it defames police…It’s a brotherhood. We are out there doing the same work public safety and to do something like that is ridiculously stupid.

Meanwhile, the city firefighter’s union, of which Salters is a member, also attacked the post, but said that they would defend Salters if he loses his job over it. Said Joe Schulle, president of Fire Fighters Local 22:

“The paramedic involved is sorry. He realizes it was inappropriate. He issued an apology.

As I write this entry, Salters still has his job, but it’s very likely that this could change. Mayor Nutter has requested an investigation into the post.  The Philadelphia Fire Department has a very stringent social media policy, which includes:

  • Banning members from identifying themselves as firefighters or paramedics on social media.
  • Banning members from using social media while on duty.
  • Banning members from “making any comments inconsistent with the ethics of the department”

The Fire Department has already said that they believed that Salters violated the department’s social media policy.

This is a pretty heavy-duty policy, but this incident proved why it’s necessary. After all, paramedics work hand-in-hand with the community, as well as other members of law enforcement. This post would certainly make it harder for members of the community or police officers to trust Salters and his judgment. As such, Salters’ comments would make it very difficult for him to fulfill his duty as a paramedic.

The post, of course, was reprehensible. But at least one group got it right: The Philadelphia Fire Department. I think that banning members from identifying themselves as public safety employees is overkill, but it’s totally appropriate to ban social media use while on duty and to ban the use of certain types of posts.  Kudos to Philly for getting that one right, and for putting themselves in an appropriate position to disipline or fire Salters.