The right way to hold a Twitter Town Hall, featuring Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

I’ve written repeatedly about the dangers of holding a Twitter Town Hall or Q&A on a hashtag.  There have been plenty of disasters for sure.  However, they can be done right, and this past Tuesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf showed us how.

The Governor took 30 minutes and retweeted questions, then answered them.  First, he proved that it was really him:

The questions he answered varied; some were serious policy ones:

Others were goofy personal ones:

(Governor Wolf has a Jeep that he drives everywhere; it’s sort of his symbol)

Now, here’s where it got interesting.  Unsurprisingly, the Pennsylvania GOP tried to troll the Governor’s Q&A:

As did the Berks Gas Truth, a group that opposes fracking:

However, the Governor got the last laugh.  He answered questions from both of them:

As for fracking:

In other words, the Governor took on questioners that were opposed to his policies and used their clumsy attempts at attacking him to his own advantage by answering their questions on his own terms.  Frankly, this was foolish by the PA GOP and Berks Gas Truth, as it gave the Governor a chance to take their own message and make it his.  At the same time, the two accounts help to generate additional awareness about the event, likely steering even more people to get the Governor’s message.

In other words, the Governor may want to thank his opponents for increasing the amount of people who paid attention to the event.

Meanwhile, the Governor earned positive media coverage in multiple outlets for the Town Hall.

So, what lessons can we learn from this Town Hall?

  • Keep your questions diverse: The Governor answered questions on a variety of fronts, mostly policy, some personal, but they weren’t repetitive and they covered most of the issues of the day.
  • Answer your attackers, but don’t get into a back and forth:  The Governor, appropriately, answered a few “gotcha” questions.  That was great and it made it look like he wasn’t afraid to take on challengers; however, he didn’t get into a back and forth, which is good, as that would have been a waste of time and looked silly.
  • Summarize: Upon it’s completion, the Governor put together a storify page that had all the questions and answers from the Town Hall.  He also tweeted out a link on the subject, ensuring that even those who missed the event could read the questions and answers:

Anything else to add?  Let us know in the comments!

CPAC website confuses Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC); CPAC claims photoshop

The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual event that is a massive gathering of conservative activists throughout the U.S.  It is also a must attend for any Republican Presidential candidate.  Naturally, any event of this size comes with controversy; this year, there was quite a bit of fighting between CPAC organizers and the Log-Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans who sought to speak at CPAC but were rebuffed (only to be invited to participate in a panel).

However, CPAC stepped on it again with their mobile website.  As first noticed by Washington Post Reporter Ben Terris:

As you can see from above, the biography of Dr. Ben Carson has the picture of Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).  Senator Scott is one of only two African-Americans currently serving in the U.S. Senate, and Dr. Carson is also African-American.  Given the struggles that conservatives and Republicans have had at gaining African-American support, the mistake is particularly embarrassing.

I tend to be sympathetic to folks for making honest mistakes, but this is a really bad and careless one.  Frankly, the two men do not look anything alike:

BenCarson TimScott

Dr. Carson is on the top, and Senator Scott is on bottom.

All of this being said, the real winner of this accident might be Senator Scott, who had this very funny tweet:

This was probably nothing more than a careless error, but an insensitive one at that, and it reiterates that you should always proof any internet or social media work, and have someone else do the same, if possible.

At least the error was corrected quickly; Terris’ tweet first appeared at 8:30am on Wednesday, and as TPM reported, it was fixed thirty minutes later.  However, here’s where things get interesting: CPAC says that Terris’ tweet was a photoshop:

The link goes to a cached version of the page from 2/24, the day before Terris’ tweet, which shows the Carson page and the correct picture.  Terris himself denies the charge:

CPAC had better hope that this was a photoshop, because if it wasn’t, they took a minor embarrassment and made it bigger by trying to cover it up or throwing around a false accusation.

The cached page certainly shows that, at least as of the day before, the right photo was on the right page…but this is a cached image that shows the page at a single moment in time.  It does not rule out that the picture was changed later, then captured by Terris. Someone needs to provide evidence that Terris’ image was a photoshop for that to be the case.

Facebook Local Eletions

Can you use social media to connect with voters in a local election? Not really. But….

I spent Saturday at a League of Women’s Voters event, where I discussed my experiences as an elected official and as someone who’s pretty into social media.  At one point, I was asked to give my experiences in terms of using social media to connect with voters in a local election.  Can you do it?

Unless your locality is big enough, or your budget is there, probably not.

Here’s why: first, your locality has to be big enough.  Say you are running in a primary for Borough Council, and you’ve got 12,000 people in your municipality.  Maybe 8,000 of them are registered to vote.  Maybe 1,500 will vote in the primary, and maybe 750 of them are in your party.  Many of them are seniors, who are using Facebook in larger numbers, but still aren’t a big chunk of the electorate.  My point?  If you can get 10% of the people who are going to vote in an election to like your Facebook page, it’s a huge win.

Of course, it’s possible for you to use Facebook ads to target voters in a local election, but that’s probably a waste of money, Facebook’s targeting is good, and there are ways to connect with registered voters through Facebook ads, but they are way to expensive.  A far better use of your money in a local race is targeted mail.

So, do you ignore Facebook in a local election?  Of course not, and that’s why I have the “But….” in the title of this entry.  You can, and should, use Facebook in a local election.  How?

  • Keep your volunteers, friends and family informed:  You can use Facebook to discuss campaign events, news releases, debates, etc.  To that end….
  • Volunteer recruitment:  Get people to like your page, and use the page to get more volunteers.
  • Money:  By showing that you are actively campaigning and selectively uploading pieces of your platform to social media, you can energize your volunteers, and hopefully get them to contribute or volunteer.

There are, of course, other uses, but these are the first few that pop into my head.  What do you think – any other words of wisdom to add?  Let us know in the comments!

Social Media Logo Collage

Five things you must do on social media…if you want to tick off your followers

If you are looking to anger your social media followers, then boy, have I got a post for you!  Of course, if you want to keep them happy, then do the exact opposite of everything I am typing right now.

1.  Get condescending: I can literally think of few ways to piss off your followers more than this.  This is doubly true for elected officials, since you are supposed to lead and represent, not insult and talk-down.  Debate and disagreement are fine, but you have to do so in a manner that is polite and respectful.

2.  Get vulgar: If you do this on your own Facebook page, you deserve whatever you get.  Always maintain a basic level of respect.

3.  Overuse “IMPORTANT” or “BREAKING”:  Have you been driven nuts by news organizations which constantly scream “Breaking News!” about something that isn’t even slightly breaking, or all that important?  Don’t become part of that trend.  If something is important or breaking, use it, but don’t overuse it.

4.  Become a one-note band:  Generally speaking, your social media content needs to center around a broad issue, like constituent service, your business, etc.  However, you shouldn’t pick one sub-issue and only talk about that.  Keep your content diverse, but on message.

5.  Ignore legitimate questions:  There are times I’ve ignored people who have commented on my Facebook page, but that’s only because it’s clear from their tone or words that they don’t want to discuss an issue – they just want to yell.  If, however, someone is legitimately looking to resolve a problem or get an answer for a question, and you ignore them, you are at fault.  You always have to make a point of trying to answer those who are looking for real assistance.

Any more to add?  Let us know in the comments!

Are pictures still the way to breakthrough the Facebook News Feed? Not as much as you’d think.

One of the standard lines about getting your content to appear in someone’s Facebook News Feed is that you have to do better than just plain text: pictures, videos and links.  After all, Facebook’s algorithm has changed so much that it makes sense that only high-value content would actually make it to someone’s eyes, and pics on Twitter lead to more retweets and engagement.

But, according to a new survey by Socialbakers, that’s no longer the case:


And, for pages with more than 100,000 likes, the results were even more striking:


As you can see, photos are very clearly at the bottom of the list for impressions.  At the top is video, with regular old status updates and links near each others.  What is the takeaway?

First, don’t panic, and don’t make any immediate changes to your social strategy.  One study isn’t enough: more data is needed before you can start acting on this conclusion.  What is advisable, however, is that you start paying closer attention to your own Facebook analytics.  Are pictures still doing well for you?  How are they doing compared to other types of content?

The real takeaway, as far as I am concerned, is that video is rising on Facebook.  This is intentional.  Facebook has making a real challenge to YouTube in this realm, and with some success: in terms of overall internet video views, YouTube is falling and Facebook is rising. This is clearly part of an intentional effort: during the past year, Facebook has started offering tips to users on how to make better, more engaging videos.  It has also unveiled videos that automatically play in your newsfeed and offered more detailed video analytics.

The rise of video on Facebook is a game changer and sets up Facebook to take on a new segment of the internet traffic population.  The conclusion for elected officials and any business that uses social media is obvious: go where the eyes are.  That’s video.


Fun with acronyms: The Krispy Kreme Klub!

The social media world turned on Krispy Kreme this week, when an unintentionally racist acronym from an English advertisement went viral after it was promoted on the company’s Facebook page.

A Hull, England branch of the doughnut shop advertised their weekly activities, which featured items like “Funday Monday” and “Face Painting Thursday.”  Okay, so what’s the problem? Their Wednesday promotion:

KKK Wednesdays

Wednesdays: Now with a lot more evil!

To clarify: KKK Wednesday was not for this:


But was actually for a doughnut decorating event.  Related: Am I the only Simpson fan who instantly thought of the Krusty Komedy Klassic?


Understandably, Krispy Kreme apologized for the statement, noting that the ad had been advertised by the British store, which had no idea of the other meaning of the KKK acronym:

“Krispy Kreme apologises unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores.  This promotion was never intended to cause offence. All material has been withdrawn and an internal investigation is currently underway.”

It’s easy to say, “Gee, Krispy Kreme really should have done it’s research before launching such a stupid promotion!” but let’s be honest here: How many people would realistically do that? And honestly, what are the odds that, in the course of coming up with an acronym, you would accidentally use an acronym that stood for a horrendously racist group from another country, an entire ocean away?  This was an accident, pure and simple, and I really think it was unpreventable.  If an American business made this mistake, then you’ve got a real problem, but a British business?  That’s a different story.

What was more important here was how Krispy Kreme handled the aftermath, and they did everything they should: Deleted the promotional material (while acknowledging the deletion), giving an explanation without an excuse, apologizing “unreservedly” and saying what they would do, going forward, to prevent such an error from occurring again.  I don’t think you can ask for much more.

joan crockatt

The “Most Important Death” in journalism?

The past week or so has been a difficult one for the journalism industry, as it saw the death of NY Times Columnist David Carr and 60 Minutes reporter Bob Simon, as well as the suspension of NBC anchor Brian Williams for the inaccurate retelling of his experiences in the Iraqi War.  Canada saw an additional blow with the closure of the Sun News Network.

It is that closure which inspired today’s fail.  Joan Crockatt is a Canadian MP from Calgary.  In response to an article which discussed journalism’s bad week, Crockatt tweeted the following at the article’s author:

The insensitivity here is obvious: tweeting about the “death” of a network would seem to ignore the pain caused by the actual deaths of Carr and Simon.  Twitter users let Crockatt have it:

Crockatt has not apologized on Twitter, and her only additional tweet on the subject was in response to one user’s criticism:

Otherwise, however, Crockatt has since been silent on the issue.  She’s letting her words stand as is.

Relatively speaking, though the tweet was tone-deaf, this wasn’t a huge mistake.  So why am I writing about it?  Because it was such an easy mistake to avoid, and that’s really the lesson here.  MP Crockatt left herself wide open for attack when she said that the most important “death” of the week wasn’t an actual person dying.  Remember, people can and will very easily twist your words on social media, particularly if you are a politician and people are salivating for the chance to attack you.  This was an insensitive tweet – don’t make Crockatt’s mistake by sending something like this!