Over the past couple of years we have seen political candidates and politicians increasingly using social media to connect with voters and their constituents. Many politicians have asked me if they should personally post updates to Facebook or send out their own tweets. They understand the increasing value of having a presence but just like the population as a whole, many are not comfortable using social media. My answer is always the same: Before you engage in social media you need to develop a solid strategy that helps you to define (1) why you are going to establish a presence; (2) who your intended audience is; and (3) what value you intend to deliver to that audience. I do advise them that if they are not comfortable personally engaging in social media, they should consider outsourcing that role to their staff or to a consultant.
Today the Daily News reported that Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney had a firm under contract to assist him in reaching his constituents through Facebook and Twitter. I am not going to question whether the fee being paid to the consultant is appropriate or not, because the article does not speak to what the overall engagement entails. But if the firm is using Radian6 to monitor social media on behalf of the Councilman, has assisted in developing a strategy that allows him to bring value to his constituents, and works at keeping his content fresh and frequent, the cost would appear to be reasonable. In looking at the Councilman’s Twitter feed, it certainly contains the mix of content that I would recommend a politician to populate their social media channels with. Councilman Kenney’s tweets educate, engage, and entertain. The key to a successful social media strategy is to provide content to your audience that will cause them to “like” , “friend” and “follow” you.
The only advice I would offer the Councilman is that it is important to be transparent when engaging in social media. So if someone is tweeting on your behalf, let your audience know when you are tweeting personally and when someone is tweeting on your behalf, by adding your initials to your personal tweets. Just as Twitter has become an important tool for the news media to gather and report information, it is also an important tool to keep the public engaged and educated on the issues that affect their everyday lives. There is no shame in determining that your talents are best served in other areas. Doing social media takes time, doing it well can take a lot of time. I am sure if he were doing all of this himself, he would be charged by some with spending too much time socializing, and not enough time legislating.
I will disclose that I have known the Councilman for over twenty years. I did not write this post because of our personal relationship. I wrote it because I think it is unfair for anyone to be attacked for trying to engage with their constituents or customers. Those constituents of Councilman Kenney, who primarily rely on social media to get their news and information, deserve the opportunity to be educated by their elected representative on those channels, even when their representative is not comfortable using social media on his own.
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