Jul 10

VTGOVSM #3: Deb Markowitz

Deb MarkowitzDeb Markowitz

Website: www.debforvermont.com/

Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | YouTube | LinkedIn

Other features: All sites have the same unifying name “debforvermont”, which makes it VERY easy to find the campaign. First campaign so far to send me an automated welcome email when I sign up for the newsletter confirming that I signed up for it (thank you!). Interesting list of supporters page on the website. Campaign has done a great job of integrated social media clearly and easily into the candidate’s website. I like the “DebTV” link on their site that pulls in some YouTube videos. This campaign also wins for the ego-search category, but admittedly given her role as Sec. of State she does have a big Google advantage.

What’s missing: ZERO twitter engagement. And by ZERO I mean just pushing messages and NOT following anyone.  That’s like going to the parade and waving at people, but not shaking their hands, or when someone hands you their baby to kiss, you turn around and walk away. Some engagement on Facebook. And, well, here’s another candidate that is blog free.


Only about a month until the primary campaign and it’s time to take a look at candidate Deb Markowitz and how her campaign is using social media to get the word out AND engage with Vermonters.

On an ego search this campaign is on the ball.  The advantage that Markowitz has because of her role as Sec. of State cannot be overlooked here, but in general the campaign’s sites come up pretty fast in Google. The campaign is running a sponsored ad on the ego search, which is a good tactic.  I like that the Dunne Campaign is running a competitive Google Ad that links to a testimonial by one of my own Reps, Tom Stevens.  The campaign Facebook site is right there as is her Wikipedia entry. Hard to find the other sites with the ego search at Google (like many users I’m not going beyond the first page of search results here). Over at Bing, results are similar.

SEO Analysis: This campaign is doing very well with SEO, although having more of their social sites come up in results would certainly be an improvement.  Because the campaign site is easily navigated, however, and shows the social media options, it’s not devastating. However, here’s another candidate that is missing the mark on not personalizing the message through a blog. Couple this with the lack of Twitter engagement and you can see that the candidate is really taking good advantage of her role as Sec. of State to get found on the search engines. Given the content of the website and the issues that the candidate is focusing on there are a ton of opportunities to maximize content into engaging blog posts that connect to Twitter and Facebook.


Markowitz Website

I have to admit that I really like this site. It’s clean, simple and bright. Perhaps its the “Vermont Green” that makes this feel fresh (I’m not a designer, nor do I play one on TV). They have clean navigation and it’s very easy to find what you are looking for.  Not too much clutter, which appeals to my own personal sense of both form AND function. What this site is missing is really fresh content. Like most campaign sites someone decided that if we post little widgets that scroll through our news items, then that is enough to be “fresh” and “engaging”.  Well, sorry, not anymore. The news items are always suspect (because they come straight from the campaign) so whenever you can empower your supporters to help with content the more interesting this is going to be.  This is why I like what the Markowitz campaign is doing with their “Supporters” page.  Now, it’s basic — just a list of names of people from different counties but it’s an interesting start.  What I don’t like about it, is that it seems to be a list of people who have filled out the “contact” form instead of creating a special “I’m for Deb” form that would allow me to not only put in my name but additionally include a short explanation of why “I’m for Deb”. Taking it the next step, make that a less than 140 character tweet with the hashtag #imfordeb and the campaign could have these tweets flying out all over from supporters who have twitter accounts (just sayin!).

Once again, however I’m perplexed by the issues.  Now I know I was pretty tough on the Dunne Campaign for this, and I’m all about fairness…so here goes…. The issues that Deb Markowitz is highlighting on her campaign site are: Insist on Quality Education, Support Vermont’s Farms, Harness a Clean Energy Future, Support Vermont Small Businesses, Change “Business as Usual” In Montpelier, Create Good Jobs, Make Government Efficient and Accountable, Fight For Affordable, Quality Health Care for All, Care for Vermont’s Seniors. These are all good issues of course. Who wouldn’t be all for these?  But what about…technology infrastructure?  Please someone explain to me how we are going to support Vermont small business and create good jobs and make government efficient, if we don’t put resources into improving the technology infrastructure around this state?  (Yes, this is my soap box and I’d like to see a politician really push this.)

Website Recommendations:

Overall I like this site for its simplicity and focus.  I’d like more real content, however and would ask the campaign to really consider that blog option — read my advice to the Dunne Campaign on this. Using a simple tool like Posterous will help with that blogging and can increase the content creation from the candidate. So much more can be done with this to expand on both her experience and her ideas for the future of Vermont.  Overall capitalize on the “We’re for Deb” section of the site and push it up a notch (BAM!) allowing for supporters to explain why they are for Deb.

Social Media Tools: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn

I’m going to quote myself here (why reinvent the wheel?), with a little change up for gender and person….: “This campaign has all the tools: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Deb even has a LinkedIn (but that’s not showing much about the campaign — it’s all about her work as Sec. of State.) Here’s the trick though.  At the end of the day if information is being pushed out to followers, but that information doesn’t add value OR if the campaign is not engaging (communicating back and forth) then all the social media tools in the world aren’t going to make a big difference. My overall assessment here is that the campaign lacks personality and is not engaging with their social media tools.”

Facebook: (1,036 people “like” this page) Standard Facebook official page here (with a clear URL: http://www.facebook.com/debforvermont).  Out of date discussion and “issues” and some small responses to posts on the wall. Why not use polls? Get discussion going? Post more current issues? Yet again, lack of engagement and just pushing content the “old fashioned way” isn’t really going to help the campaign to leverage these relatively inexpensive tools.

Twitter: (175 followers — and I was number 175). Um…NOT FOLLOWING ANYONE? Really? So tell me campaign staff for Deb Markowitz, why do you have a twitter account in the first place? It’s not like you have any fresh content on your blog (you don’t have one), nor on your website (except for news items which you are also posting on Facebook). So what is the purpose of Tweeting messages to only 175 Vermonters? What do you hope to gain?  Again, it’s like I put Deb in a room of 175 people. She talked at us for a few brief minutes and then left. Didn’t shake a hand, didn’t engage in a conversation, didn’t kiss a baby. What is the point? My advice here is to make a decision. Either you commit to using Twitter or shut it down. If you commit to it do the following:

  1. FOLLOW EVERYONE who is following you.  Not my normal rule by the way but this is for a politician NOT for a personal site.
  2. Remember that the @response to a specific person means that only that person and the people following both that person and you will see this in their Twitter stream  They are not necessarily going to your Twitter page to see all your tweets.  They are following you so your tweets come to them.
  3. Please stop ORDERING people around. Lose the exclamation points! Add value.  Tell me WHY I should vote for you. Tell me about issues that have an impact on me as a Mom, as a Professional, as an Educator, as a Vermonter.

Here’s some content examples from recent campaign tweets:

  1. @teejayp3 thanks! Now read my plan for Vermont at debforvermont.com/jumpstartVT. I want your vote! about 20 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® in reply to teejayp3
  2. @secretcabdriver hope we identified you as a suporter! Now we need you to volunteer! about 20 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® in reply to secretcabdriver

  3. Great Pictures from #Burlington Pride! This is an ally running for #governor of #VT! http://bit.ly/bTDYwh about 21 hours ago via web

  4. Great day at the Burlington Pride Parade! I am so thankful for this powerful letter my sister wrote on my behalf http://bit.ly/aHs2vC about 21 hours ago via web

  5. “Markowitz issues plan to aid communities” from the Burlington Free Press http://bit.ly/crCqN1 10:08 AM Jul 23rd via web

  6. Launching LocalFocusVT, a component of JumpstartVT, to help local governments ease the recession and jumpstart job creation in their towns. 10:50 AM Jul 22nd via web

  7. @CouncilorAdrian thanks! We have 5 weeks left and we will need everyones help to win this primary and get ready to beat Brian Dubie 12:43 PM Jul 21st via Twitter for BlackBerry® in reply to CouncilorAdrian

  8. WCAX story on Deb’s hard work! “..Markowitz is working to cement her lead in the Democratic primary race for governor.” http://bit.ly/dxvxc5 1:08 PM Jul 16th via web

  9. Important from @FairGame Deb’s commitment to health care isn’t just based on rhetoric. Our staff have health care. http://bit.ly/blhrC4 1:06 PM Jul 16th via web

  10. Called to eliminate of $16K per diem for food. Brown bag lunches are good enough for Vermont’s working families–so good enough for #VT GOV

Some suggestions on how to reframe some of these tweets:

  1. Did you read the article in the #bfp about Deb’s plan to aid communities?  (insert link here). There’s more to it on our website (insert link).
  2. Blog post by @ShayTotten show’s #vtgov candidates campaign monies. Deb gets most of hers from Vermonters (insert link)
  3. Launching LocalFocusVT, to help local governments jumpstart job creation in their towns. (insert link to some content here!)

Keep those Tweets simple, focused and clear. Link out to more content and follow, follow, follow!

YouTube and Flickr:

Nothing to really get excited about on either of these sites, however there are good images up on Flickr and a few cute videos.  To add more depth to these enhance the bios on each, brand them more clearly with the website and do more with them. Put in a Flickr photo stream on the website (a free widget plugin should do the trick quite nicely) and add more video to YouTube and put it on the site. The stop motion that Deb’s daughter created is very cute and fun. Put that on the “We’re for Deb” page of the site.

Social Media Recommendations:

Dear campaign staff for Candidate Markowitz please remember that Social Media isn’t about “Media” it’s about SOCIAL! You aren’t broadcasting an ad here … you are using a mix of tools to engage and have conversations and get information from people who may be interested in going to the polls in August and voting for your candidate.  Also, more content means more ways you can use that content to connect. My biggest recommendation for this campaign is to increase the engagement level of all social tools they are using. Get focused and use these tools for maximum efficiency. Twitter can be a powerful tool but only if it is used correctly. A blog can help the candidate to manage her message more effectively rather than waiting for the media outlets to report on something she said. It also personalizes content more so that people build a relationship with the candidate — and that my friends is what politics is all about.

Final Thoughts:

There’s a trend here so far in the three candidates I have reviewed and it’s about how to best leverage these social tools. By nature politicians are social. This should be easy but it is necessary for all the staff involved to reframe their thinking on how these tools are different from traditional media messaging and just how much these tools are like going to a fundraising event or a parade or a rally. Get more social on Facebook and Twitter and really find the time for blogging. There is less than 30 days to go to get the message out there. That’s not a lot of time. Ask yourselves this question, “Do you want to put your message in the hands of the state media outlets or do you want to get the message directly to Vermonters?”