Jan 11

Social Media, Politics and Vermont

Last year (I love writing that!) I wrote a post calling out our Gov-Elect Peter Shumlin for his lack of continued use of social media tools to provide information to Vermonters on his transition.  The post generated some interesting comments and I owe a response to those who took time to respond: @rnadworny, @johnfmoore and @mjayliebs.  Interestingly enough, no one from the @petershumlin staff responded.

Let me start by highlighting the main gist of the comments I received  — in a nutshell both Rich and Mitch felt that because Vermont is such a rural state and not as many people use social media here, then there is not a big reason to focus on the use of social media during a transition when traditional media channels such as newspaper and TV will do just fine.  I liked John’s point about advocating for “Open Government” or the so-called Government 2.0 — which is an approach that emphasizes transparency and openness in communication. I don’t disagree with any of these gentlemen as their points are valid and make a great deal of sense.

However, my issue is that if a campaign feels they should use social media in a state that is as small as Vermont in order to get elected, then why aren’t they continuing that approach once they do get elected? I believe I know the answer and this post will speculate on that as well as offer a different approach that I believe all politicians and governments will have to explore sooner rather than later.

First, I’d like to address one particular point that Mitch made in his response to my earlier post:

From Mitch: “Drawing an analogy to the business world, the campaign is the marketing process, election is the sale or the close and now we are in customer support mode. Brands only really are interested in engaging on channels where people are engaging with them. It is reactive, maybe wrong, who knows. I follow the #vt and #Vermont hashtags, I have not seen people trying to reach out to Gov elect there, why should the government make more work for itself and open up another channel?”

First of all, as marketers the world over know — it’s a lot cheaper to KEEP customers then get new ones.  What does that have to do with politics?  Well in Vermont, we have only two year terms.  The reality is that our Governor needs to begin campaigning the minute he gets into office — so why let the social channels lay fallow when he could be leveraging and building upon the social base that was created during the election?  Secondly, as a constituent who uses social media I’ve noticed VERY quickly that this Governor is NOT communicating via social media — the team is PUSHING content.  So why should I invest the time if he isn’t?  It’s the classic chicken and egg, cart and horse problem. If the Gov-elect isn’t engaging then why should I?  I write all of this not to be snarky, but to only highlight the challenge of the use of new media tools.

We are no longer in an age where push media is going to have the biggest impact AND consumers are savvy enough to understand that if you are only going to use social channels to solicit money from me, then there is no point in my listening or engaging.

Bottom line:  The Shumlin Administration is making a BIG MISTAKE in not addressing ALL MEDIA CHANNELS with equal importance and in not treating SOCIAL MEDIA as an engagement platform.

Let’s take a look at why:

Trends in social media, mobile and communication technology continue to show an increase in use and are driving change in expectations. As more individuals gain access their expectations on how those tools will support and enhance their lives continues to grow. A recent blog post from Pat Heffernan (@pheffernanvt) of Marketing Partners a local Vermont Marketing firm, about 2010 Internet Trends captures just how important it is for politicians to be thinking carefully and strategically about their approach to social media.  As she writes, “The subject is the massive and rapid change in user expectations. Anyone not paying attention, anyone operating in the same old, same old ways will become irrelevant to their customers.” (read the full post here: http://conversations.marketing-partners.com/2010/06/internet-trends-2010-by-morgan-stanley%E2%80%99s-mary-meeker/)

The countdown to the election begins now. I suspect that the Shumlin campaign jumped on the social media bandwagon because “everyone” is doing it during a campaign.  It’s time to take the lessons of the Obama campaign to heart and not lose any momentum that was gained.  If you stop using social channels to engage with me,  I will no longer follow you or pay attention to you.  Now’s the opportunity to lead and show ways in which a small rural state can leverage social tools to engage, inform and stay connected. Two years is a short time and if you consider that just a few short years ago, no one had heard of Twitter and MySpace was still the biggest social network (that was 2007 folks), technology tools and how people use them will continue to mature. This is not the time to be left behind.

The Future of Politics and Social Media is very interesting. Mashable writer Matt Silverman just posted an interesting article about Four predictions for the future of politics and social media.  In particular he points out much of what both Mitch and Rich stated — many people aren’t using social tools yet — and this isn’t just true in Vermont but it is also true nationwide.  However, more importantly, he writes,The future of the social media politician is not about wild speculation and technological uncertainties. It has everything to do with when and how deeply social media can be absorbed into mainstream culture. We are on track for a tipping point — a JFK/Nixon TV debate moment — when everyone on the political scene will acknowledge that we can never go back to campaigns without social.” He also points out that there will be a shift not just in eyeballs but in dollars spent from traditional TV, Print and Radio to online social tools, “Print and radio ads are not as valuable as TV. TV will no longer be as valuable as interactive media. For politics, this is especially so, as the arena (at its best, anyway) warrants engagement and discussion.” His points are all about the campaign — but they have good value when applied to an Administration that has just been elected.

So yes, Vermont is rural in nature and weekly newspapers and local radio have a great reach. But social media tools are growing in use and adoption — the more value there is for me as a user, the more apt I am to adopt the new communication technologies.  As of June 2010 there was approx. 513,000 Vermonters using the Internet and 200,000 using Facebook. (http://www.internetworldstats.com/unitedstates.htm#VT)  Of course, let’s not forget the amount of money that has been pushed towards helping Vermonter’s gain access to high speed internet access to reach undeserved rural areas. As Sen. Leahy and Sanders wrote, this is a game-changer. In other words, the moon and stars are aligning and while it will take time for all of Vermont to gain access and adopt these tools, the opportunity is now to build up the social infrastructure for the Shumlin Administration.

With all of this in mind, I offer up the following examples of local politicians who are using social media tools and how that use is helping them connect, inform, engage and gain and keep the respect of their constituents … perhaps our Gov. Shumlin could learn something from them.

  • Gov. Cory Booker: Mayor of Newark, NJ: You’d have to be under a rock to not see how this Mayor has leveraged Twitter during the Snownami that hit last week. Follow him and learn how he is helping, connecting and engaging with his constituents using Twitter. @corybooker
  • A slew of Republicans and a Democrat or two: Take a look at the results of this recent Facebook poll that highlighted which politicians are using Facebook in a way individuals find useful: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/12/palin_republicans_get_high_mar.html.  My personal favorites from this list include: Michigan’s Justin Amash (explaining his votes = big win!), and CA Gov-elect Jerry Brown for doing more than announcing appointments on his Facebook.
  • Rep. Kesha Ram has done an outstanding job of live tweeting, and providing commentary during last year’s session.  I’m looking forward to what she’ll bring this time around. Follow her on twitter at @kesharam.

So here’s to an interesting year in social media and politics.  I look forward to seeing how the Shumlin Administration is going to leverage social media and while I’m disappointed right now, I’m hopeful they will step up their game once they officially get rolling.

Dec 10

Is there a role for social media in the Governor’s office?

Belated congratulations to #VT Governor-Elect Peter Shumlin!

It was a nail-biter and I must say a very interesting campaign for many reasons. As the dust has settled and we’ve begun to get the news of administrative appointments I’ve begun to wonder “where hath gone the social media?” (it sounds so much more academic when I write “hath” don’t you think?)

Well it would seem I’m not alone in that wondering. A recent Twitter exchange between myself and @vtwatch back on December 4th highlights some of the wondering including questions about the lack of a true transition team website and even if there should be an emphasis from the Gov-Elect’s office on social media at all. As Rich Nadworny pointed out, “@ejyoung67 @vtwatch If @PeterShumlin appoints a “social media advisor” then the state’s really in trouble. Not what we need.”

It’s a good question.

Should there be a “Social Media Advisor/Assistant” or even dare I ask, a “Community Manager” who is associated with a Governor’s office?

Recent announcements of individuals assigned to key roles in the Shumlin administration are opening up more questions from other sources about how this administration might view the role of social media and I must admit that I’m pretty disappointed.

Let’s begin with how one finds out about the appointments to the administration shall we?

Google it.  I dare you.

I searched on Shumlin Administration.  My results provided excellent information and current updates from amazing sources that I trust including:

  • The Burlington Free Press
  • Green Mountain Daily
  • VPR
  • VT Digger — their Twitter Feed AND their Website

I also searched on Shumlin Transition and Shumlin Transition Team.  Similar results.

You might ask, “Elaine, so what’s the problem?  News is getting disseminated. Information is flowing. What does that have to do with social media anyway?”

Give me a few more lines and I’ll get to the point (I am an academic afterall…)

Search on Shumlin and the top result is the campaign site that now has this nifty message:

Notice that I can still donate and I can still link to his social media sites AND I can find out about the inauguration (the link is obscured by some of the design).  Let’s take a quick peek at the current status of the Shumlin social media options:

So what about this inaugural website?

It’s called CELEBRATE VERMONT: http://www.celebratevt.com/ and it is a place you can go to:

  • get a schedule of events
  • get news items about the inauguration
  • volunteer to help
  • contribute (no fancy set up here — just an address where you can send a check.) Kudos the the new administration that proceeds go to the Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation

At this site you can also connect with them via SOCIAL MEDIA!

Alright then based on this very quick analysis it looks to me that the Shumlin administration has begun to segment and prioritize their social media.

  • Facebook: They are putting most of the emphasis on Facebook and this is where the announcements are happening. Nifty. Go a bit deeper here and you’ll see that the folks responsible for this feed are really just posting “news items”.  There is little to no engagement.  People are posting and asking questions and getting no answers. Oh and btw, none of this is getting found on Google.
  • Twitter: The message I get here is that Twitter is only good enough to tell you to come to a party. Any news items, well that’s clearly not an emphasis of this transition team.
  • YouTube: Video is good. But, again, it’s about “Come to the Party” and not about news items, announcements and information about the people being added to the administration.
  • FlickR: Obviously pictures (although they are worth 1,000 words) aren’t that important either. Nothing posted from the process as we awaited the vote counts. Nothing posted once a winner was declared.  And now there is the inaugural space — I’m sure we will see some great photos from the evening and the events…at least I hope so.

Now back to the initial question — why does this matter anyway? Frankly information should be coming from the Shumlin team directly to Vermonters.  Right now the team is relying almost solely on traditional media (that they do not have control over, by the way) to get information out.  While they are posting information via Facebook — they are missing many Vermonters who don’t have Facebook and the lack of a transition website is troubling. Seriously, a simple website would do so much to provide content that more individuals can access without waiting for it to come out in the paper or hear it on the news.

Oh…one more thing….

A great post over at Green Mountain Daily has sparked some interesting conversations around social media, the Shumlin administration and specifically WHO should be responsible for managing the “new media” and what should their qualifications be?  As you probably already know Bianca Slota from WCAX has been named Press Secretary for the Shumlin administration — this is the role that will also be responsible for “new media” in addition to working with the Vermont press.  She’s a great reporter who has solid news experience. Awesome choice IMHO for a Press Secretary. Sue Allen who as worked at the BFP and the AP is now Special Assistant to the Governor and will be responsible for Communication Strategies.  Also an awesome choice.

In a traditional media and communication world.

But now we get to the crux of this whole post.

Is there a role for social media in the Governor’s office?  I believe there is and there should be.  However all indicators are that the Shumlin administration does not yet see the value beyond Facebook as a push platform for content. The individuals hired who are to be responsible for communication have very little to show in the social media realm.  Slota has a Twitter account that has no activity and a professional FB page that is again about broadcasting info.  And if the Renewable Energy Vermont Facebook page is any indicator Allen has little sense of how to do more with FB than broadcast info either.

One could argue that Vermont is rural and therefore social media isn’t as important as traditional media outlets such as radio, TV and newspapers.  I would argue that in today’s media landscape a Governor who is committed to an open communication style that engages with constituents will have a team who has a proven track record in all areas of media communication. Allen and Slota are hands down proven in traditional.  But this administration is setting themselves up for challenges they can ill afford by not having a member of the team who GETS social media — and how to connect it and integrate it into a cohesive communication strategy.  Oh…and monitor it. This team needs to be ready out of the gate and they don’t have time (don’t get me started on two year terms) to waste in “learning” how it works. Three years ago no one knew about Twitter.  A lot can happen in two years with social media tools.

My recommendation to the Shumlin administration — hire a social media person. With a powerhouse like Allen at the helm, and a well known, solid reporter like Slota on point, bringing in a Community Manager or Social Media Associate/Assistant who gets it would create an amazing team.  Oh, and if you don’t know who would be good, I’ve got a few names I could share (smile). Let’s face it, if a role like this is good enough for Fortune 500 companies, why wouldn’t it/shouldn’t it be worthy of a Governor?

So yes, Vermont, I do believe that social media is important in the Governor’s office — if that Governor is committed to engaging with constituents beyond ribbon cutting.

Aug 10

VTGOVSM Tips: A Ten Step Blogging Guide for Politicians

After reviewing the web presence of the five Democratic Vermont Gubernatorial candidates it became clear pretty fast that they are all struggling with a fundamental building block of online content.



Of all the candidates only Susan Bartlett has a blog that even comes close to being a blog.  It got me thinking as to WHY so many of our candidates who are trying so hard to differentiate themselves from the others are NOT blogging.

I got some insight from candidate Matt Dunne who exchanged emails with me after my initial review of his web presence when he highlighted the real challenges of time that candidates face — constantly on the go, engaging face to face at parades and cookouts and fundraisers and debates and meetings all over our state, while at the same time holding down a job and taking care of family.  It is no small challenge to be sure.  My sense from each of the campaigns is that the candidates themselves along with their staff are struggling to find the right balance.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder that what is missing here for the campaigns is the understanding that social media tools are changing the fundamental way we market ourselves (and for politicians that is the focus, isn’t it? Marketing themselves.)

It used to be so much easier really.

Print brochures and yard signs and stickers, create TV/Print/Radio Ads, hold some events and go around shaking everyone’s hands. Hobnob with the influential people and get the newspapers to endorse you. Simple (ok, maybe not really, but it was a formula at least and predictable). Easy. Push your content. Push your message. Send out your news release and then hope when you do your even that the media portrays your point of view in the way you want. Spend the cash on the TV campaign and then sit back and watch the donations come in and the votes stack up.

But now, we have all these tools.  These somewhat “free” tools that allow us to become content creators easily. And suddenly the watch word is ENGAGE. And you are told to have CONVERSATIONS. And people like me are telling you that you are doing it all wrong and that now PUSH is bad. You have to give up CONTROL. And you have to figure out how your campaign will get found in SEARCH, and if you have enough TWITTER followers and how many VIEWS your YOUTUBE Video got and if you have enough FRIENDS on FACEBOOK who LIKE you…..

What’s a political candidate to do?

At a time when there are so many resources it is easy to get overwhelmed. BUT…I would like to point out that if your goal as a politician is to let people know how you stand on the issues (whatever those issues are) and you want to be sure that people have an opportunity to read about your point of view…WHY wouldn’t you blog?

If your only con is “I don’t have enough time” then that is not enough when you compare it to the pros:

  1. It’s free. Really. Anyone can set up a blog for free using any number of sites from Blogger to WordPress to Tumblr to Posterous.
  2. It’s easy. You have a point of view, you type it out and you click “publish” and your message is on the Internet ready for people to read.
  3. It’s fast. It doesn’t take long to type out your point of view or reaction on something. We are talking a half hour to 45 minutes.
  4. It compliments your traditional media messaging. Create an ad campaign, and direct people to your website for your “issue paper” and use your blog to expand on the issue.
  5. It helps your SEO. Go beyond the named “ego search” and have people get your content as a result when they search on issues.
  6. It makes it really really easy for your volunteers and supporters to SHARE your content. Write a good post about your point of view and people will like it, share it, retweet it, all for free, increasing YOUR visibility online.

Ok, so now that I’ve convinced you that you need to blog (grin), here’s HOW a politician should be blogging. It’s my dream really. Something I haven’t really seen yet (even though State Senate Candidate Philip Baruth is doing a pretty solid job — but, he is an ENGLISH Prof AND he’s been blogging now for a really long time — about politics no less, so you can’t really compare).

So here it goes…Elaine’s  “Ten Step Blogging Guide for Politicians”

  1. Start with a GOAL. You want EVERY post you write to be shared, liked and retweeted.  That’s your goal.
  2. Write with your GOAL in mind. What can you write that will move people to share, like and retweet your post?
  3. Always ADD VALUE. What is the current issue of the day? How will your post explain your position more, add clarity, offer a new option, differentiate yourself from the other candidates?
  4. Be AUTHENTIC. This is the time to write the way you talk and to show me, the voter, the person behind all the campaign rhetoric. Avoid having staffers and volunteers do the writing for you.
  5. Keep it SHORT. You aren’t writing a treatise here. Stay focused and clear and to the point.
  6. Keep it FRESH. As in, not stale. Post often — you don’t have to do it EVERY day, but two – three times a week is a great schedule.
  7. LINK Strategically. Don’t be afraid to link out to different sites in your post. When you mention a town, link to the town’s website. When you mention a person, see if they have a blog. When you mention an issue, link to the legislation you produced.  Yes, they click the link and leave…but they’ll be back. Don’t worry about that. You just provided information that is helpful and adds value.
  8. TAG Intentionally.  Tags are simple keywords that should be issue-based. When I visit your blog I can look for all your posts about a specific issue. Don’t make up 100 different tags, make it a short list.
  9. TWEET each post with a powerful “call to action”. My students found last semester that when they blogged and then tweeted with a link to that post, their readership went up. Politicians should do that as well. Use Twitter wisely and in that Tweet tell me the main point of your post with the link. That will make me take the desired action — click on the link, read it, and then retweet it.
  10. Use COMMENTS to  your advantage. When you get comments on your blog, or Tweets about your post, or questions on your Facebook Wall, don’t ignore them.  Respond back. Respond to the positive ones AND the negative ones and engage with people online just the way you would at that chicken pie supper.

Finally, a  few words about VALUE.

Value means I find what you wrote useful in some way. Many of our candidates are big into telling us where they are going or where they have just been. Sorry to be harsh but a little tough love never hurt anyone.  We don’t care that you are going to the parade or to the chicken pie supper or that you were just at the car race. What we do care about is what you LEARNED when you were there.  We care where you are if you are giving away something cool OR if you have decided to create a flash mob experiment in the middle of a parade.  Stop reporting and start providing VALUE and comments will happen. People will “like” you and followers will “retweet” you and supporters will “share” your content.

Aug 10

VTGOVSM #5: Peter Shumlin

Peter ShumlinPeter Shumlin

Website: http://www.shumlinforgovernor.com

Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | YouTube | LinkedIn

Other Features: Using “Networked Blogs” to important content directly into Facebook. Has a simple email confirmation. Nice YouTube integration. Includes Google Calendar. Facebook share button integrated throughout site. When coming to content through Networked Blogs, more sharing options available (but this is a frame and it is very confusing to the user.) Has one of the best Twitter bios I’ve seen so far. Has a “Company” LinkedIn Profile. Very interesting.

What’s Missing: A Blog. No, really.  Just because the campaign is using a tool named “Networked Blogs” don’t confuse that with having an actual blog. No Twitter feed on website. Has a very sparse, naked even, LinkedIn professional profile.


Shumlin has a great deal of content on the web — given his history in Vermont, that is not a surprise. The campaign site comes up first on an ego search, as does a great deal of news stories (my current favorite being the “stopped for speeding” coverage). A Wikipedia entry is right up there as is the Facebook Official page. Looks like the Dunne Campaign feels that Shumlin is worth some keyword buys as theirs is the only ad running on this search.  Over at Bing the results are pretty similar. So once again, not a great deal of content getting indexed by the major search engine, unless that content is created by traditional media on the web. (I am so looking forward to writing my next post about blogging and politicians).

SEO Analysis: Like most of the candidates the Shumlin campaign gets the nod for the main campaign site coming right up (relevancy is of course key here), but they lose points for all the other content that is not being found. Facebook comes up for this candidate, but YouTube, Flickr and Twitter do not.  LinkedIn only shows up on a special search.  Considering Shumlin announced LAST May (vs. this past May), I would have expected to see better results. Again it’s all about keywords and descriptions and more of those on the YouTube videos would be great (I especially like the whiteboard ads, although I’d suggest Peter that you consider the use of different colors and MORE ARROWS! Sorry, you have to be a student of mine to get it.)

The Website:

As my ex-mother-in-law used to say, “Age is a terrible, terrible thing” and when it comes to fonts on websites as I get older I am forced to agree with her. There’s something about script on a website coupled with a very small font that just gets my eyes very tired.  Perhaps I’m the only one? This site has good visual appeal but I find it very difficult to read. It’s clean and simple with that widget-ized look.  The pull out tabs for the social media sites is a nice little add on and the sign up for the email is very easy to find (although you have to click on it and it takes you to another window where you fill information out, which is a little odd). They have the RED letters for the DONATE tab which if you’ve been reading my series you know I’m not too fond of (a splash of green here would be nice). I guess my biggest pet peeve here is the blog or really the lack of the blog. I’m disappointed in the site functionality and how the content in the boxes links to what I would call “land-locked” islands of information.  In other words, you click from the home page on an item and it takes you to just that item in full, with no other  links to other content, so to find more content you have to go back to “home” or click on “issues” where you only find a few top of the line items (note that technology infrastructure is NOT on the list). The same goes for the so-called “blog” so you have no idea how to find the history of the information that was posted.  This is not a structure/programming I’ve seen before, as most sites are keen on providing multiple ways in which to view content. My sense is this is a structural issue that comes with the content management system they are using.  In my opinion this is a problem for the campaign. Their content is hard to find using search engines and current content is difficult to find directly from their website. The only way I could get to an overview of all the posts from the “blog” was to go into one of the posts and look at the comment section and click on “Posted in Peter’s Blog”.

So let me get right to the big issue here.  I say there’s no blog. And yet, right on the home page of the site in nice script lettering is the following, “From Peter’s Blog”. Folks this is a news feed. Plain and simple. This is NOT a blog. The campaign is pulling in “news items” that are actual mentions in traditional media (newspapers, TV in their online form) and then for the blog they are just posting news releases.  Let me repeat that this is NOT a blog. The candidate should be providing insight and information and policy and details.  That is not happening. Opportunity missed.

Website Recommendations:

Pop up the font a notch or two. Make it easier to read. Keep the top widget with the YouTube and the images — very nice and keep that sidebar with some of the content top of mind information. But please, please, please consider a real blog. And integrate a Twitter feed.  My guess is from the looks of the site it is a content management system of some type (WordPress to be exact, the same platform I’m using for this blog) which should make it fairly easy to pop in the Twitter feed code.  That will make some things a bit more current and make the Twitter account more accessible. But much like the other candidates my biggest advice here is for content. Social media and the Internet is built on content and that means a balance of words, pictures and video. They need to all come together.  Also make it easier for me to find all the posts from the “blog “(a great solution is a tab at the top that brings me to the blog category that provides an overview of all posts similar to the “issues” tab).

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

The campaign is fairly consistent in their branding and “look and feel” throughout the different tools where it is easy to do so. In general they are just missing valuable content and linking. This is true across all the different tools — more descriptive words (other than, “Shumlin for Governor’s first Television Campaign Commercial”) would go a long way to helping get more visibility and to make it easier to understand the information that is being presented. All profiles and bios need to be filled out and since they have such a good one for the Twitter, why not replicate it on the YouTube and Flickr sites?  The same could be used for LinkedIn, although both those areas just need more content as a whole.


The Networked Blogs application works pretty nice in this context — it’s got a small user base right now, but it is a sweet little app that lets the campaign post content quickly to the official page and to the personal profile of the candidate.  (Looks like many of the candidates are doing that double life thing on Facebook.  It’s confusing but as long as y’all make sure to keep up on both, you’ll be ok, just remember that all those people you are “friending” aren’t necessarily your friends). The campaign has the “donate” tab at the top, and you’d think they’d take just an extra little bit to put in a .jpg image or something, but at least you get a link to a place to donate.  The “Boxes” area is up to date and provides links to the new commercials (hmmm…interesting that the new one isn’t up on YouTube yet).  The YouTube box seems to be broken, so either the campaign needs to fix it or just delete it.  Since you have your info in the “Boxes” area no need to duplicate it all. Like all the candidates the “engagement” issue is a continual challenge.  Content is pushed out on Facebook but I’m not seeing a lot of comments and back and forth with people who write on the wall.  Let me provide an example.  I wonder if the candidate would ignore a person if they came up to him and said:

Random Person Shumlin does not understand that nuclear power is safe. How many coal miners died in the last year ? 30 plus. How many oil workers died in the last year ? 11 plus. How many nuclear power workers died in the last twenty years ? 0 ( zero). So give me a break and talk reality. Have you priced a solar heating system… or solar electric system for residential use ….. no one can afford these systems unless you have the money that peter must have.

I’m betting not. But that is exactly what is happening on the Facebook Official page. Someone posted this on the page and there has been no response from the campaign.

So folks, time to get busy and check that Facebook page once a day just like you are checking the email and respond to people when they post there.  Don’t just push the content.  Engage.


I like how this campaign is using Twitter.  Yep, I said it. They are working hard to do a mix of things.  In their tweets we see actual messages from the candidate (several of us, myself, @counciloradrian. @vtwatch and @shaytotten had a bit of a back and forth the other day via Twitter about candidates signing their print materials and leave behinds. I of course asked the question, shouldn’t we then know when the candidate is tweeting vs. the campaign staff?) This campaign is clearly working on that.  Also there is a mix of link sharing, issues and a lot more substance. Less reporting of location.  Here are some examples (although I might take issue with telling academics what majors to offer at the college level, but that my friends is a very different kettle of fish):

  1. @Gyandevi 2/2 – that will focus on the #green industrial revolution! I’ll also push for a climate change major @UVM. We need a different way about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck in reply to Gyandevi
  2. @Gyandevi Income tax credits to all college grads who stay in #VT and work. Also, invest in education programs and higher ed programs …1/2 about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck in reply to Gyandevi
  3. @heif Hope they are all good things! -Pete about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck in reply to heif
  4. asoga Free Press letter to the editor: Shumlin pragmatic, tough, full of hope http://bit.ly/bVVulY #vt #vtgov about 7 hours ago via TweetDeck Retweeted by petershumlin
  5. Check out #BernieSander town hall meeting in #Putney: http://bit.ly/auhavK I talked about single-payer healthcare and reform as #VTGOV. about 6 hours ago via TweetDeck
  6. Health Care Town Meeting http://www.shumlinforgovernor.com/health-care-town-meeting/ #vt, #vtgovsm about 7 hours ago via Twitter Tools
  7. @lukeeriksen If we can invest some $$ in the eastern corridor and support a rail from #Bennington #VT to #NYC, we will be on our way! 8:56 PM Jul 31st via TweetDeck in reply to lukeeriksen
  8. @lukeeriksen The economic benefits of a strong rail system will certainly help our #VT local family farms and spark industrial growth. GO! 7:15 PM Jul 31st via TweetDeck in reply to lukeeriksen
  9. @lukeeriksen We should be doing better. Tracks on the East of #VT could use a facelift and we should improve/build track from #BTV 2 #NYC. 3:34 PM Jul 31st via TweetDeck in reply to lukeeriksen

Note the use of “-Pete” at the end of one of the tweets. In others, (which I didn’t include here) they are writing “Team Shumlin”.  Now they just have to get consistent.  So worried about the character length? Come up with a system. My suggestion is to use hashtagging. When Pete is actually tweeting end the tweet with #shumlin (there are no search results for that yet) and when it is the campaign staff tweeting use #teamshumlin.  Stop random hashtagging like “#BernieSander and #Putney and focus on using the “@” where appropriate (@senatorsanders), stick to #VT and  #BTV when appropriate. No need to hashtag #green either.  Remember these are about helping people search for Twitter content OR to get consistency in posting information. Each campaign should come up with some issues tags as well.  For example in the rail system conversation you missed an opportunity to hashtag #vtrail. These are nuances, but they can make a huge difference.

Oh, and also get that Twitter feed ported into your site NOW.  Don’t want to lose this content and not a lot of Vermonters on are on the Twitters but they might go to your site, so give them an idea of what you are doing with Twitter and how you are connecting with people using that tool.

YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn

Content, content, content. Use text to describe (nice keywords, like the full name of the candidate, and the issue, concern, idea the image, video represents). Keep things up to date.  I can’t figure out why the new ad isn’t up on YouTube yet. Also Peter you should take a 1/2 hour and update that LinkedIn profile with some real content.  Your campaign staff is doing an interesting job with the “organization” page and that has promise. Not sure I’d focus the resources there at this point though. Get the bio and information consistent among all the properties first and invest more time in blog content.

Social Media Recommendations:

Keep up the good work with Twitter. Get focused and create stronger content on a blog — and get a real blog going. Not sure how to do that? Not sure what to write? You are not alone and my next post will get at the heart of what I see to be the big issue with all of the candidates in this race for the Democratic nomination.  I can’t say it enough. Add value add value add value add value. You do this through content and engaging with people around the content.  This campaign has got a great start on doing this with Twitter.  Now they need to do this with Facebook and with their main campaign site.

Final Thoughts:

Um…write stuff.  Write good stuff. Don’t wait for the traditional media to publish it for you. Go straight to the people and get them to share, retweet, link and like it. But this, my friends you have all read from me before.

Jul 10

VTGOVSM #4: Doug Racine

Doug Racine

Website: http://dougracine.com/

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Other Features: Interactive Calendar (Google), confirmation email for sign up (by now you all know I like this!), branding across social media sites. Share this and Facebook “like” integrated throughout campaign website (nice!)

What’s missing: No photo of the man himself on the homepage of the campaign website (no…really!), no BLOG (yet another candidate not sharing via a blog), no discussion area on personal Facebook page. Bland YouTube video presence. No LinkedIn presence, except for an entry for “Field Director at Doug Racine for Governor” which is marked private. No Twitter integration on campaign site.


The Racine campaign is doing fairly well when it comes to the ego search. Campaign site is first and second, with Wikipedia entry third. Social media sites aren’t showing up well yet, although Facebook does show at the bottom of the first page of search results. Twitter shows up on the second page of results. Looks like Markowitz and Dunne are working the Adwords on this search as well. Again we have another campaign that isn’t blogging (at this point it’s clear that I’ll need to make the case to politicians in Vermont as to why blogging is so very important for a campaign – -and that, my friends will be a post that will come out after I’ve completed the Democratic candidate review), so there is nothing there to help with the SEO nor the content generation. Over at Bing there are similar results.

SEO Analysis: So yes, the campaign is doing fine.  An ego search pulls the main campaign site right up. The site design makes it easy to find social media sites with little effort. However, there is a general lack of content that shows up — there is some good press content that comes up none of which is campaign generated (yes, yes, this is part of my case for the blogging). The social media sites would improve in their rankings with stronger bios and stronger content. Facebook is in a decent position given the timeframe, and the campaign Twitter site is coming along. I’m disappointed in the lack of results of YouTube, but in looking at the videos the campaign has, they are really missing an opportunity to broaden the candidates ability to talk right to Vermonters. They are using speech footage and are leading with a news story from local Fox affiliate ABC 22. A stronger bio and descriptions for each video along with more one-on-one video from the candidate would improve that ranking.

The Website:

Doug Racine Campaign Website

I’m all about originality.  Actually I really like it when folks take a different approach to a website in a way that makes things interesting (not to be confused with “mystery meat navigation”) and less formulaic. However, this one really surprised me and I’ve seen many websites. Take a look at this screen shot. Show me the picture of the candidate. Really go ahead.  What does Doug Racine look like?  Can you tell easily without clicking on anything?  Ok, yes, there are those nice little photos of the candidate in various parades and functions throughout the state…but…what I first see when I come to this colorful site is VEGETABLES. I get it. It’s for the localvore tour. But for the first three seconds of my visit to the site I was confused. Really confused.  I thought I was at the wrong place.  My brain went…”Grocery Store?” then it went “Farm?”and then I was like all … “wait a minute, where am I?”  In looking for an image for my blog, by the way, I couldn’t find anything really useful on Google so went to the campaign Facebook page and dug through “profile images” in order to find the one I chose which I think is quite a spiffy shot of the candidate. So after all this, my advice to the campaign — get a picture of your candidate on that home page.  A nice picture (like the one I picked). Oh, and by the way, vegetables don’t vote. People do.  You’ve got your localvore dinners coming up…get some good shots of people EATING the localvore foods with the candidate and put that up there instead of the veggies.

Photo snarkiness aside, overall I do like this site. The home page is widget-ized (but most sites are) and lacks original content (see my earlier posts about this being an issue), but it is easy to navigate and find things right away and I’m all about usability. The campaign has nicely integrated the share this widget, they have the nice big green contribute button and it’s easy to sign up for the email updates (and they have the confirmation email!!), they’ve got a nice photo sharing section and I like how they’ve pulled in the YouTube videos to the site.

Not going to rant here like I did for the previous two candidates since I’ve already done it, but I will say that here we go, once again, no top level attention to technology infrastructure. This really pains me. Really.  Sigh. However…I looked a bit deeper and there it was, under “Economic Opportunity”: “A statewide, universal and easily accessible Broadband System is essential for Vermont. This will be an immediate and top priority of my administration. Vermont must invest in this infrastructure. As a rural state, we cannot rely on the private sector to provide this service – it is just not profitable given our small population. Instead, we must undertake an effort akin to the rural electrification project and ensure that all Vermonters have access to broadband that is reliable and affordable.”  (This, I like!)

Website recommendations:

Photo please. Thank you. Also as with the other candidates what I would like to see here is more personalized content.  The campaign has the boilerplate.  Now it’s time to make this personal by adding a blog that comes from the candidate and does more than report on the days events. Tell me what you learned, tell me what you will do, open my eyes to issues I should pay attention to. Engage me. Oh, and this is a very personal pet peeve, so don’t take just my word for it, but as a woman I DISLIKE intensely when there is a separate section for “Women” for the candidate (frankly I feel the same way about race, religion and any gender (I made this clear in the posts I did for the Presidential campaign)). It conjures up images of bake sales and “women only” events where we only talk about childcare and health care. Again, this is my own personal reaction, but it does beg the question I think. Why is the “Woman for Racine” button right on the home page? Why not “Men for Racine” or “Dogs for Racine”? I believe there would be more power in breaking out counties or looking at things more broadly such as “Environmentalists” for Racine or even better…”Republicans for Racine” (you know I had to go there).  Also please do more with your videos. I’m going to take some liberty here and recommend you all take a look at a site of a friend of mine, Joe Mescher. Look what one man can do with a smart phone that has video capability (disclaimer, this is a video he shot right after we had lunch and talked about technology and college students):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN6d2LRT_ps. Here’s another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhHrovhBmAM. It’s raw, it’s fun and they are a little over 1 minute long. What could the campaign do with a quick topic, a flip cam and 2 minutes? A great deal I’m thinking. Also note how Joe has added descriptions and information to his videos to help with SEO. Finally, consider pulling in the campaign Twitter feed (Twitter.com has several useful widgets) directly into the campaign website to show current information.

Social Media Tools: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

This campaign has a mixed result with the social media tools and much like the others is struggling to figure out the “secret sauce” that makes social media “social”. We’ve be trained to push content push content and push more content, so it is very difficult for the pusher to ask for engagement and the pushee is not expecting to be asked. This is what makes it so difficult. In general I’m not seeing the strength of the engagement level here, although by adding the share this to the website, the campaign is making an effort to help people to more easily share content. Specifically the next step to take is to really encourage your constituents and volunteers to use online tools the way they use face to face. Add more to your emails, create some interesting ways to use Facebook (take a look at what Matt Dunne is doing with the Q&A game) and consider ways in which you can leverage Twitter. Oh, and by the way, if you have a blog, it will make it that much easier (grin).


There are some interesting issues for the campaign when it comes to Facebook.  First, um, ok. I think this is the WORST picture of a candidate I’ve ever seen. What do you all think? Change it now. There are so many GREAT pics of Doug in the profile area, this one looks like it was pulled off of a TV screen (I’m betting it was from a recent debate). Personally I like the one I picked above.  However, more importantly is the fact that this site is a personal page, not an official page in Facebook.  From what I can tell, there is no official page.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well a personal page is where you “friend” people. The official page is where you “like” someone or something. Each has different features and options. There is also a community page but we won’t cover that yet (although this campaign should be aware that there IS a community page that is pulling in content when someone searches on “Doug Racine”.) Is there a down side to having the personal page?  Well, yep.  Personal means, well personal. It’s the page he would keep whether he wins or loses the race. It’s the place to stay connected to real friends (not supporters). The official page is the page to have set up for a campaign that can go away when the campaign goes away. It’s also where I can see how many of my friends “like” the campaign vs. how many new friends Doug has. It’s a nuance, but pretty important since Doug’s friends may not be my friends, I’m going to ignore it. However, if my wall shows that my friend Joe likes Doug Racine for Governor, then I’m going to take a second look. Take a look at Matt Dunne’s.  Here’s his “official” and here’s his “personal“. At this stage of the game, I don’t think the campaign should worry about this, but if they win the primary they better roll out a campaign official page ASAP.. The other implication is that because it is not an official page the campaign can not track engagement levels, can’t add in discussions and is limited in the programing they can achieve.  This is probably why overall the Facebook site for the candidate is ho hum. There are some great photos here (kudos) and some good posts that are asking for support, and talking about work the campaign is doing, but the overall engagement from “friends” is low (although as I wrote this post he went from 1,797 friends to 1,803!).


This campaign is tweeting up a storm. It’s the one campaign that is following more people than are following back! Here’s a sample:

  1. Doug says he loves #VT #farmersmarket shopping. “I don’t want to send my tomato $ to CA.” about 1 hour ago via HootSuite
  2. Local foods potluck at Lincoln Peak Winery in New Haven #vtgov #VT. Great turn out! about 2 hours ago via HootSuite
  3. We’re at the #midd #VT #farmersmsrket. #vtgov about 3 hours ago via HootSuite
  4. @James_Ehlers Thanks for the RT! about 5 hours ago via HootSuite in reply to James_Ehlers
  5. Spend an evening with @joetrippi on Monday, Aug, 2nd at Burlington Country Club, 7:30 pm.http://ht.ly/2hHo9 #btv #vtgov about 6 hours ago via HootSuite

As with the other candidates I’m seeing a lot of reporting about what we are doing, but not a lot of what I’m learning or why should you vote for me Tweets. For example the big push for the campaign right now is why local is so important…so…um, tell me why local is so important, and it should not be about $$$ going or not going to California. Link me to news items and resources that explain why local is good. How about encourage me to follow individuals who are big into localvore? (like the folks at SugarSnap). This campaign is also doing a lot of “thanks for following me” Tweets. I don’t recommend it. Substance and adding value will get you more visibility. There is a big difference between creating noise and creating value. Create value and you get retweeted to the people who follow me which might get you more followers who will spread your message.


I provided a great deal of YouTube advice above, within the context of the website and SEO. Liven up the videos, create short little snippets that are interesting and fun and give me more info about the candidate.

Social Media Recommendations:

Engage, engage, engage. Content, Content, Content. Easier written than done, but worth saying it over and over. Try polls, ask questions, encourage volunteers to use their social skills and share and retweet. Send out emails to your supporters and those who signed up to encourage them to join the Facebook page. Keep up the good work on the photos and keep thinking about ways you can add value and tell me more (read here, get going on a blog please).

Final Thoughts

This campaign is doing a great deal, but they have more work to do. They are handicapped by the lack of a blog and the fact that they are losing trackability and options because they are not running an official Facebook page. They need to liven up their videos and do more with Twitter — less reporting and more value add. This can be said for all the campaigns overall.

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?”

Jul 10

VTGOVSM #2: Matt Dunne

Matt DunneMatt Dunne

(Update 7/4/2010 — added link to Vermont Future website)

Website: http://www.mattdunne.com/

Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | YouTube | Linked In

Other features: Google Calendar, Wikipedia,  CafePress and SWEET social media integration in website.

What’s missing: Blog, no confirmation email for sign up, quality check on Facebook Application. Supporter widgets. Overall lack of real engagement.


I have to admit that this particular analysis has been hanging on my head for the past week.  I should have posted it earlier, but to be honest, I was feeling a bit intimidated.  For heaven’s sake this is Matt Dunne.  GOOGLE GUY.  What could I possibly have to provide to this campaign that would offer any value whatsoever? Well, turns out, one can always add value. And my analysis of the Dunne campaign had some BIG surprises.  I should also come right out and say that my expectations of the Dunne campaign are the highest of all the campaigns (see my reference to “Google Guy” above).  So with that said, let’s get this analysis rolling!

Searching for “Matt Dunne” is actually quite fun.  The campaign is running Google Sponsored adds, so the ads come right up as does the main website.  What Ho!  There’s the Markowitz Campaign on the side! (they are pushing the adwords campaign for sure). We also quickly see that the Dunne Campaign has Wikipedia, Images, a Calendar sight and some good news coverage (check this MSNBC AP article out).  What you don’t find is Facebook or Twitter or even a Google profile.  At Bing we have similar results — but no ads.  Poor Bing, no one wants to pay you for advertising.  On a side note, plugging in a search for “Vermont Governor Race 2010” shows that the Dunne Campaign is working their SEM keywords — they are the only campaign to have a sponsored ad.

SEO Analysis: Matt’s easy to find on an ego search.  But I’m really surprised that Twitter and Facebook and YouTube are NOT showing up.  Neither is Flickr.  That’s a great deal of content and sites that should pull up fairly quickly which brings me to the elephant (sorry perhaps I should say donkey?) in the room.  I’ve searched.  I’ve looked.  I’ve clicked.  And I have found NO BLOG.  This is an interesting issue that has a big effect on SEO.  The website content is basic with news and social media feeds – – very pleasing to me as a human but without actual content depth and most importantly FRESH content (read here a blog) I wonder if the campaign is short changing themselves.  It could also be a time issue.  These social media sites just haven’t been around long enough to get indexed.  Whatever the reason, the campaign should look at how to increase the strength of their SEO so more of their content is found on quick searches — making it easier for constituents to connect.

The Website

Screen shot of Matt Dunne Website July 2010

The design of the website is the standard set by Obama back in 2008.  Expecting any innovation here would be expecting to much.  However what this campaign has done is fully integrated the social media they are using directly into the site.  Using Google search might not get you to the Twitter account, but coming to the campaign site you’ll find it right away. Up at the top are links to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.  YouTube is incorporated directly into the “watch all videos” section and the campaign is not shy to ask you to fork over the cash with a nice easy to find blue contribute button in the upper right hand corner (notice the exclamation point, which I think is better than a question mark, eh?).  It’s easy to “Join Matt’s Team” with the email sign up (although when I did sign up I did not get any confirmation email — what is up with this?).  What is really nice is the many ways I can see information on this site.  On the home page there is a Twitter feed, a Facebook widget to show me all of the people I know who “like” Matt (a little social pressure), and the calendar so I know where he is at a given time.

Deeper in the site we’ve got fast facts about Matt and an additional contribute button in the glaring RED (People…please get with the color program.  Red on the web means the same thing as red in traffic. STOP.  It’s not patriotic.  I’m not gonna click.) Given Matt’s focus on “Citizen Politics” and “Service Politics” I’m surprised at the lack of information on the “Volunteer” page of the site.  Just a sign up.  *yawn* .  Finally, one snarky comment (and yes, this blog is not about the issues really it’s about the social media use, but I just can’t help myself on this one) — not sure but under issues for Vermont, and given this is Matt Dunne, I’m stunned that I don’t see anything about technology infrastructure. Um…what?  In Vermont Matt’s issues are:  Job Creation, Health Care Reform, Restore Trust in Government, Agriculture, Education, Environmental Protection, Energy, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, 21st Century Transparency. Are these issues that are important to Vermont or the country as a whole? Not feeling the personalization to Vermont really. Very disappointed in lack of conversation about communication infrastructure. Update:  @mattdunnevt sent me a DM after I originally posted this and reminded me of the website he created prior to the campaign: Vermont’s Future which, although not linked to from his main campaign website is an important addition to the content question.  Too bad it doesn’t come up quickly in Google search and is not a link from the campaign website.

Website Recommendations

So what would I recommend for the Dunne Campaign for their website? Some personality. Yes all the social media is there and there are testimonials.  But what is really lacking is updated content that is from the candidate himself. I’ve heard Matt speak (he’s actually spoken in one of my classes) and he is dynamic and interesting.

Someone get a blog tab set up on that website STAT. Give Matt access to a nifty tool like Posterous and let him post real observations and points of view from the road via his email.  This will do several things:

  1. Get some interesting issues oriented content on this website.
  2. Help with SEO
  3. Add a real dash of personality to a very shallow site that pushes “the good news” but doesn’t give me a sense of the person behind it all.

Social Media Tools: Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, YouTube, LinkedIn

This campaign has all the tools: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Matt even has a LinkedIn (but that’s not showing much about the campaign — it’s all about his work at Google.) 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.

Twitter: (354 Followers) Again, great that the Campaign has a Twitter account and it was neat to see that @mattdunnevt came to #btvsmd. But…it’s the tweets that count. And the recent tweets from this campaign are…well…meh.  Here’s a sample:

  1. Great response in #Bristol this morning! McKibben and Rep Sharpe endorsement already resonating. On to Brandon! #vt, #vtgov about 3 hours ago via web
  2. Fantastic support at the Brattleboro Gallery Walk. Thank you to all of the vols! #vt #vtgov about 17 hours ago via web
  3. Great scene at bellows falls farmer’s market. Maple ice latte perfect fuel to get us to brattleboro! #vt #vtgov about 22 hours ago via Twitter for Android
  4. After a moving tribute to Kevin, stopping for coffee in Bellows Falls and then off to Brattleboro for Gallery Walk! Perfect day. #VT about 23 hours ago via web
  5. Off to the memorial service of a great friend Kevin Forrest. Look forward to some wonderful reflections #vt 1:36 PM Jul 2nd via Twitter for Android
  6. Just finished a great canvass in Springfield. Solid support and new volunteers! Thx peterh for joining! #vt 9:14 PM Jul 1st via Twitter for Android
  7. Another great video from our supporters, featuring interviews from 8 legislators who have endorsed the campaign: http://bit.ly/9QeoRQ 2:32 PM Jul 1st via web
  8. Interesting editorial in #BurlingtonFreePress on the tone and message of the primary campaign. http://bit.ly/bwhHoP #vt 11:40 AM Jul 1st via web
  9. @PMGNicole great to see you as well. Net roots will make a difference in this race and good to see out in force. #vt 11:11 AM Jul 1st via Twitter for Android in reply to PMGNicole
  10. Great scene at social media after-hours @bistro http://twitpic.com/21dnsr #btvsmd #vt #vtgov 11:21 PM Jun 30th via Twitter for Android
  11. RT @hellosmalldog: Matt Dunne and our reigning social media queen @pmgnicole! http://yfrog.com/j9ouymj 11:15 PM Jun 30th via Twitter for Android
  12. @jabadillo thank u for the support! Spread the word & sign up to volunteer at WWW.mattdunne.com #vt 8:33 PM Jun 30th via Twitter for Android in reply to jabadillo
  13. Amazing view of our beautiful lake before youth build graduation. http://twitpic.com/21bzuz #vt 7:11 PM Jun 30th via Twitter for Android
  14. Waiting in traffic on Williston Road a guy in a Chevy shouted “With you Matt. We need change.” Word is spreading! #vt #vtgov

What would I like to see? How about:

  • Gallery Walk in Brattleboro showcases a wide variety of downtown businesses, great for tourists, great for Vermont! (insert link to http://www.gallerywalk.org)
  • New blog post will tell you why I think it’s time for Vermont to invest in renewable energy and how it will create jobs in the NEK. (insert link to non-existent blog post here)

Basic focus here should be about not reporting on your Maple Creemee Mr. Dunne, but more about telling me things you care about so I get a sense of why I might want to vote for you in the upcoming primary.

Facebook Official Page

(1,822 people like this page) The Campaign Official page at least has a URL (http://www.facebook.com/mattdunnevt). There’s photos and a nifty customized tab that lets you see videos and a photo slide show. The wall has a wide range of push posts from the campaign and a mix of supporter posts.  The engagement from the campaign, however is low. At the very minimum some “likes” on posts would be good and responses to anyone who takes the time to write would be a good thing as well. Most recent posts are from the Gallery Walk in Brattleboro (two pictures total).  I’m still left with little sense of issues and of what you plan to do for me as a voter.  What do you think has to be done right away?  I’m a bit surprised there aren’t any campaign widgets I can post on my Facebook — which would be a nice touch.  Also, watch that customized tab which has a link to “myspace” (hmmm…what’s that?) that doesn’t really work and a “share on Twitter” button that posts this, “Matt Dunne | Democrat for Governor http://apps.facebook.com/matt_dunn” in my status (why would I do that anyway — they can’t program something more interesting than that?). This could be much more interesting — but I do like the video feed — that’s very nice.  There were some discussions at some point early on, but those have died down.

What would I recommend for Facebook? More engagement — more linking, captions on photos, and pull in that non-existent blog to add depth of content for the Facebook-oriented constituents. Does anyone on the campaign have a smart phone? iPhone or Google OS would allow them to take pics and share them immediately on Facebook — add a quick caption or comment to add some depth.

Flickr and YouTube: Pretty straight up work on both of these sites — nicely done overall for YouTube with a good mix of videos and the direct link to the main website is good.  It’s clearly branded and about the only thing that the campaign should add is a direct link BACK to their website.  Flickr is just a list of pictures.  Could they brand this more strongly? Yes.  Should they? I think adding in some more specific content to help with SEO is enough as long as they are porting in the Flickr feed to their site.  By the way both of these sites could be incorporated nicely into a blog.

Social Media Recommendations:  In general the biggest challenge I can see for the Dunne campaign is a lack of a blog. Now won’t I have egg on my face if they actually have one?  Well…um…no, not really. Because then, why can’t I find it? So if there is one, the campaign has to do a better job of getting it found. They are missing a great opportunity to put meaningful content on the web — content that does more than tell me where he is right now and let’s me know how he plans to make a difference in my life as a Vermonter. Having said that the Campaign has all the right pieces in place. Now it’s time to step it up. Engage with people on Facebook (use that like button), add some interactivity such as polls and campaign widgets. Add more value with Twitter. Instead of telling me your location (which you can do nicely with FourSquare, by the way), give me information, link me to things that aren’t just campaign generated but are issues that I should know about as a voter and then have conversations and ask questions. Keep up the good work with YouTube and add a bit more word content to Flickr — as always be sure to link to all the different social sites and the main campaign site.

Final Thoughts: As I wrap this up I continue to be stunned that I cannot find a blog. I invite the campaign to let me know what the rational is for not having a candidate blog — and if I’ve totally missed it, please give me a link and I’ll write an update to this post.  The case for a blog for this candidate is clear: content, personality, content, engagement, content…hopefully you get the idea.

Jun 10

VTGOVSM #1: Susan Bartlett

Susan Bartlett (D)Susan Bartlett

Website: http://www.bartlettforgovernor.com/

Blog: http://bartlettforgov.blogspot.com/

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

What’s missing?  YouTube, custom Facebook URL, custom/branded Twitter background, strong search results, keyword rich website content, no email confirm.

When you start your search for this Democratic candidate in Google by typing in “Susan Bartlett” (yes, it’s an easy ego search) the candidate’s main website comes up first.  The next item you’ll probably notice is that the Markowitz campaign is on the ball and has purchased the keywords to get top placement for an AdWord (and yeah, I SO clicked it!).  Lt. Gov. candidate Steven Howard also has an Adword running.  What other information do you find out about Susan from the Googles?  Well, there are some links to local press (VPR and Green Mountain Daily), Project Vote Smart, CCTV and the VT Democrats site. What you don’t find are links to her Blog, Facebook or Twitter directly from Google.  Using Bing pulls up poorer results — main site is the first listed, but then not much else of substance, although you do find out she has a LinkedIn profile.

SEO Analysis: Bartlett has an online visibility issue. All of her online properties are not found on an ego search, and they should fill up the first set of listings as the most relevant. To fix this the campaign should take a hard look at not just what they are posting on the sites, but how to create unique and interesting content that is keyword rich.  Bios should include her name, her location and move away from “sales pitches”, (see twitter entry below for more specifics) and most importantly, capitalize on linking to the different online properties. Specific home page content on the website should also be keyword rich.  Remember folks the key here is to write in a way that pleases the humans AND the search engines!

The Website

This website is conspicuous for what you DON’T see vs. what you do see.  There is a lot of text on the main page of the site, but it is confusing in that it is more of a feed of recent news and less of a welcoming/engaging space.  You are asked off the bat to stay informed with a special widget that includes email, Twitter and Facebook.   The “contribute” area blends in at the top as part of the navigation which I find surprising since the overall goal here should be two-fold: 1) to raise funds and 2) to inform your constituents.  On an interesting aside, the folks over at the Burlington Free Press did a recent posting looking at the Bartlett site and were a bit cheeky about the fact that at the time she had a “contribute” widget where the current “stay informed” widget is.   We all have an opinion, eh? (grin).  The downside to this current set up:

  1. I signed up for the email and did not receive an immediate confirmation.  I should have received a confirmation email that welcomed me to the campaign and provided me with ways in which I could get involved.
  2. “Become a Fan” button is outdated.  Sorry folks, but Facebook has done away with “Fanning” and changed over to “Like” in April.
  3. “Follow me on Twitter” takes me directly to the Twitter site for the campaign and I get the same exact content there as I do on the Facebook page.  (bored now)
  4. Keyword text is bleak. Really, really bleak.  In the world of SEO, you need to focus on what people are looking for and current text emphasizes Seven Days (and while they rock, this doesn’t really help the campaign!).
  5. Layout and functionality of the site is austere and the long scrolling text is not engaging.
  6. The only link to the blog is buried in the text — not easy to find at all!  In theory the blog should be the area with the most activity.  Linking clearly to it and even having it as part of the upper navigation is very important here.

Website Recommendations: Emphasis on issues is solid but organization is a problem.  A few simple tweaks can really make the difference here.

  1. Move the contribute link from the top navigation to a stand alone button that catches attention.  Also open up a PayPal account to make it even easier for your users to donate. Oh, and make the donate button GREEN.
  2. Move news items into their own little section entitled “What the news media are saying about Susan”.
  3. Make the main page more welcoming — add a video welcome.
  4. Pull in a working Twitter feed and encourage people to engage on Twitter.  Keeps content looking fresh.
  5. Include a more powerful Facebook widget that allows visitors to the site to “Like” the page and see which of their friends like it as well.
  6. Tighten up the content.  Use words like “Governor” and “Leadership” and “Results”.  Organize the content so it is easier to read and encourages commentary, engagement with social media tools and signing up to do things.
  7. Get the blog more visible on the site. Make it part of the top navigation for sure.

Blog | Twitter | Facebook

It’s pretty clear here that the Bartlett campaign is still focusing on the “push” side of marketing and have yet to really get the idea behind “engaging” with social media.  They aren’t alone, and many are trying to figure this out.  To begin there needs to be CONNECTION between all the tools. This is done by allowing people to access and even see the different options from any place they find the campaign. Then, instead of putting out the same message on all channels, be SELECTIVE and FOCUSED.

  1. Bartlett Blog: Good content here, however not terribly findable at the moment. Needs a bio, a Twitter feed (show most recent tweets, please) and a Facebook widget.  Also include a social bookmarking widget such as “add this”  — very easy to do with Blogger. Could we have some pictures please?  And how about some video?  The campaign can pull that right into the blog and it would jazz things up nicely.  Add in some links as well.  In the most recent post about a trip to Rutland, would it have been that hard to include a live link to Sustainable Rutland or to the Rutland Natural Resources Conservation District or even the Mayor’s office? Why is this important? Helps with SEO AND leaves a warm fuzzy in the hearts and minds of the people you visited AND your constituents.
  2. Bartlett Twitter: First it’s great the Campaign is Tweeting.  However what a missed opportunity! I’ve already noted that the Twitter page is not branded at all.  A custom background is as easy as a simple .jpg image.  The bio doesn’t really get at this candidate’s qualifications in my opinion: “Democratic candidate for Vermont governor. Vote for leadership and experience in the primary!”  is a sales pitch.  Given her emphasis on being a moderate who has served Vermont for a long time, I’d think they can do better, and think of keywords in the process.  How about, “Democratic candidate for the Governor of Vermont. Moderate, small-business owner, State Senator.” Most of the information that is on the Twitter stream is straight push of content.  Only 84 followers as of June 22nd as I write this and they are only following 49.  For a politician this is BAD.  The number is low considering that in Vermont there are 4,000 individuals and businesses with Twitter accounts according to recent stats from Twellow. The other area that the campaign needs to work on here is to actually link me to BLOG content! Tweets are sending me off to news sites with articles about issues, which is fine, but let me know when Susan has a policy or announces something.  Also make the tweets themselves a bit more “value-add”.  For example, there’s this, “Read the profile on Susan in Seven Days this week. We need a moderate Gov! http://bit.ly/aVeG9l #vt #vtgov #btv #fb #vtdem” which might be more interesting if it was written like this: “Profiled by @seven_days this week. A great piece that shows why we need a moderate Gov!” So more spice, more engagement and follow back people who follow you!
  3. Bartlett Facebook: The idea of a Facebook site is to create a space where you can engage with individuals who are part of that space.  Getting this engagement through discussions, posting videos and responding to questions is not easy and frankly is stumping many of the best brands — it comes down to value, incentive and entertainment (all tricky in the political realm).  The Bartlett page is challenged in several specific ways including no unique URL, no photo albums (with all the traveling and things going on you’d think SOMEONE in the campaign could upload a photo or two!), no video, no discussions.  Just wall posts that are exact replicas of the Twitter stream.  There are a few times there are some reactions — but no follow up from the campaign, no responses at all.  Missed opportunities include a campaign donate tab in the page, more unique posts that add more depth, blog content, campaign buttons/wallpaper/signs — things that are fun.  No polls, and no live links to the blog at all!  I’ve also not seen any Facebook Ads for the Bartlett Campaign.  Wonder if those are going to run?

Social Media Recommendations: CONNECT all the sites together in a more meaningful way. Don’t post all the same messages on Twitter and Facebook — utilize the mediums in the way they are meant to be used.  Get going on some video.  I know it is out there (VTDigger has a bunch of it on YouTube). Don’t have the staff? Don’t be afraid to ask your volunteers to create content for you! Creating a Susan Bartlett for Governor YouTube site and encouraging your supporters to post video of why they support Susan, or the house party fund raiser they had will do quite nicely (and if the campaign does create the YouTube channel, be sure to link to it from the website and the Facebook and the Twitter…you get the idea I hope!)

Final Thoughts: In general the Bartlett Campaign has a basic web presence.  There’s some solid content available for people to gain information and understand more about the issues the candidate cares about. Their overall presence which encompasses all areas including email lacks intentionality and focus on gaining contributions and getting people to talk about the candidate.  More can be done here…and more should be done.