Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How Social Boston's At-Large Pols?

How social-media savvy are the seven candidates for the four at-large Boston City Council seats? Let's not ask how important that will be, keeping in mind that our wildly popular Major Tom Menino is not a 21st Century net geek. Yet he keeps winning.

I admit prejudice for social media. In my view, it can't hurt to encourage and enable two-way communication in ways voters know and use. Here we might note immediately at none of the seven seems to have any smartphone app. I bet some pols here will in a year or two.

Instead of my usual inventory of what pol's campaign websites have, I just pored over their relationship with social media. While I did not see who's on Google+ yet, I did scan for presence and links to Facebook, Flickr, RSS new feeds, Twitter and Youtube.

This table recaps what they have included. This may reflect more what their hired designers figured was important, but it's fair to think that any Councilor candidate should know and specify such details.

Main site1felixarroyoconnollyforbostonwilldorcenaFB onlymurphyfortreasurerayannapressleyseanryanforcitycouncil
buttons2FB, R, T, YFB, F, T, YNoNoFB, F, R, TFB, F, TFB, T, Y
tweets (8/3)99813329735222903282
friends or likes2,0324,8871,0103981,5754,005212
links outcampaigncampaigncompanynonocampaigncampaign, FB, T, Y
lengthc. 3-4 min.1-6 min.c. <2 min.
FlickrNoMany, new and old, meet and greetNoNoNoMany, old, with voters and polsNo
1All campaign sites are .com. Also, see 8/11 update for Murphy's new URL.
2Buttons are easily accessible buttons or links upfront. FB=Facebook, F=Flickr, R=RSS feed, T=Twitter, and Y=Youtube.

Disclaimers: I try not to overtly support candidates I'll have on the Left Ahead podcast. While I tend to endorse, I try to keep things clean by not volunteering for or contributing to any such candidate. I have never worked for or with any of them. I also know and like these candidates. Finally, Murphy and I live a couple of blocks from each other.

Social savvy

Overall, no one aces this comparison. Various candidates have areas of strength though. Combining the factors, Connolly is at the top. Arroyo and Pressley are very close behind and to each other. I'd give these three an arbitrary B grade.

Dorcena is at a disadvantage, which he seems to want to overcome quickly. He was the last candidate in, he is new to both campaigning and social media. His website just came on line. He has just started tweeting. His campaign site has political/issues content, but no media. He gets a C-, but I bet he'll up that soon.

Flaherty was surprising. He is charming and has a long political history, including presidency of the Council. He's a big tweeter and has been for a long time. I have not heard back from him on when he'll have a campaign site up — he uses his Facebook page for that. His sole social-media link there is on the Info tab, which has his twitter handle. Right now, he's a D. Interestingly enough, he comes in with over a thousand twitter followers, a promising number. His old eponymous campaign site is parked under someone else's name (maybe a lawyer holding the place).

August 4 Update: Flaherty let me know that his site will in fact be up and viewable in a day or two. I guess I should get ready for some content analysis.

August 11 Update: Murphy told me he had his folk fix the domain-name issue. The campaign site is now

Murphy too is behind on social media. He does have a compaign site, but it's under the last election's domain, when he ran for Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Surely someone in his campaign knows how easy it is to replace the domain name and route the old traffic to it as well. He needs some media hygiene, such as removing a duplicate FB page, updating his most active one to include links to his campaign site, adding some video, and fixing the Flickr link from the current text line. He's a D+ at the moment, mostly because he's made things hard to find with too few links and buttons.

Ryan runs a low-cost gum and paperclip campaign, but isn't too bad on social media. Both his tweets and videos are concise and beefy. He has serious political, economic and philosophical point to make. He clearly writes and video edits to make his view accessible. As we say in the biz, he understands chunking. Modified for new media, he gets his points across in under 2-minute videos.

Campaign sites

Six of the seven have formal campaign sites in addition to Facebook pages. These tend to follow the basics, including a bio, an issues page, and tabs for new stories and photographs and video.

Some make better use of social media here. In addition to buttons for donating money or volunteering, there's great opportunity here. Various visitors prefer different social media and will be attracted to related links on buttons.

Everyone except Dorcena and Flaherty present easily accessible social media buttons. Arroyo and Connolly have the widest range. Only Arroyo has an RSS feed button for news, although Pressley serves this function with a newsletter subscription link. Actually her solution is savvy in capturing a voter's email.

Connolly and Pressley both have Flickr links. These would tend to attract those who volunteer or attend rallies and events. People love to see their pictures or those of folk they know. Otherwise, this is not an interactive medium for candidates.

As for URL, the site address, three were smart and fortunate enough to get their names. Mnemonic sites are best. Arroyo is lucky his father didn't squat on that domain. Dorcena and Pressley had singular enough names to grab. The other three ended up with sites have URLs long enough to encourage misspelling and unintuitive enough to make the curious struggle. As for Murphy, he just needs to update the domain to the current race.

Twitter chatter

Particularly with smartphones in hand, candidates have gotten into tweeting. I read chatter on Google+ that it will quickly make twitter irrelevant. I remain to be convinced, as it seems a majority of us tweet or at least read those of others. Pols really can't be left out of this medium.

Again, Dorcena is new to this, but all seven tweet. Arroyo and Pressley in particular are prolific, often informing followers where they'll be or have been. Connolly seems the most thoughtful, with only, largely substantive tweets.

The only surprise among the followers to be was how few Murphy has so far, about 300. Three incumbents, plus Flaherty, seem to have made greater efforts. Connolly has the most followers, with Pressley not too far behind.

As with the campaign URL, several were fortunate and savvy enough to end up with eponymous twitter handles that also mirror their site names. That kind of consistency is social-media wise. FelixArroyo, willdorcena, and AyannaPressley fit that. The other four likely ran into the already-taken syndrome of more common names.

Friends and likers

All candidates also have Facebook pages. For this, I considered the number of Friends or those who clicked Like, depending on how the page is set. Then I looked at what outgoing page links appear in their Info sections.

Incumbents Connolly and Pressley decidedly have the most chums, over 4,000 each and twice or more fellow incumbent Arroyo. Numbers for the others can be misleading.

Dorcena at over 1,000 inherits from his business activities. Flaherty is just getting the hang of FB. Ryan is much less well known and has targeted contacts.

Perhaps more telling for social media is what Info offers. Arroyo, Connolly, Pressley, and Ryan include their campaign sites. At the moment, Dorcena has not upgraded his to have that as well as his company. Neither Flaherty nor Murphy links to the campaign there. Here Ryan seems to have put the most thought in, with FB, twitter and Youtube links here as well as on his campaign site.

Picture that

As for still and video components, three make use of Youtube and two of Flickr. Only one has both.

Flickr streams are available for Connolly and Pressley. His have a wide range from his two terms. There are lots of meet-and-greet, along with the speechifying ones. Many supporters are evident. Hers are similar but outdated and not well organized. She has her 2009 campaign and a bunch from early in this year. She should have someone update this in content and create galleries.

Similarly for Youtube, it is Arroyo, Connolly and Ryan with videos. Connolly's is the sparsest with only four, one amusing one of him speaking at a car-wash opening and three political speeches. These vary from 1 to 6 minutes, or just-right to too long in social-media terms.

Arroyo has 26 in his feed. They are almost all Council speech clips. They tend to run long, most between 3 to 4 minutes. The rule here is that under 2 minutes is OK for keeping people's attention.

Ryan gets Youtube. He has 25 vids, almost all under 2 minutes. Each has been carefully edited to illustrate one of his issues and points.

So what?

This social-media campaigning is still relatively new. Plus the platforms and rules continue to change. Even if we watch this election and others carefully, we may not be able to draw too many conclusions yet.

Just as candidates speak of the necessity to knock on as many doors as possible — the wear-out-shoes method, most know social media are now part of meeting people where they live, work, and think.

It is likely impossible to separate the power of incumbency and name recognition from the extra pushes given by social media. What does seem clear in this race is that candidates have bought into the better-safe-than-sorry mentality for social media.

Plus, they have my number and that of many other voters when they make us feel like we are really interacting with them.

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Steve Garfield said...

Great post!

theszak said...

Full transcript available for the last public meeting of Boston City Council... Ask for the full transcript stored in a computer file on the stenographic machine in the Council Chamber. Ask your favorite Boston City Council candidate, "If elected, will you release on the web the full transcript of the public meetings of Boston City Council?"... a) Budgeted for with public funds, b) searchable, c) easier to read through than watching video, d) more complete than minutes, e) more accessible for folks with hearing loss, the stenographic machine in the Council Chamber stores a computer file with the full transcript of the public meeting of the City Council for public feedback, comment, suggestions, questions. You have the words of your favorite Councilor with the full transcript.

massmarrier said...

Well, Don, you are relentless and consistent in your public-records drive. I agree we should have access. The few times I've needed old info and had to trot to City Hall to view a bound copy, I felt very 18 century.

theszak said...


theszak said...

Boston City Council Candidates listings 3 August 2011
John.Donovan at




No Preliminary Election

Felix G Arroyo 93 Wachusett Street Jamaica Plain MA 02130 617-635-4205
John R Connolly 12 Shaw Street West Roxbury MA 02132 617-635-3115 617-447-1302
Will Dorcena 63 Gordon Avenue Hyde Park MA 02136 617-899-4076
Michael F Flaherty 1726 Columbia Road South Boston MA 02127 617-269-4673
Stephen J Murphy 141 Warren Avenue Hyde Park MA 02136 617-635-4376
Ayanna S. Pressley 1910 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester Ma 02124 617-635-4217
Sean H Ryan 264 Lamartine Street Jamaica Plain MA 02130 617-504-3133


DISTRICT ONE No Preliminary Election
Salvatore LaMattina 76 Montmorenci Avenue East Boston MA 02128 617-635-3200 (no Preliminary)

DISTRICT FOUR No Preliminary Election
J R Rucker 103 Tonawanda Street Dorchester MA 02124 617-436-0815 (no Preliminary)
Charles Calvin Yancey 3 Hooper Street Dorchester MA 02124 617-635-3131

DISTRICT FIVE No Preliminary Election
Rob Consalvo 18A Chittick Road Hyde Park MA 02136 617-361-5733 617-828-0129 (no Preliminary)

DISTRICT SIX No Preliminary Election
Matt O?Malley 226 Jamaicaway Jamaica Plain MA 02130 617-935-9752 617-635-4220

DISTRICT EIGHT No Preliminary Election
Michael P Ross 214 Parker Hill Avenue Roxbury MA 02120 617-635-4225 617-708-0202

DISTRICT NINE No Preliminary Election
Mark S Ciommo 10 Oliva Road Brighton MA 02135 617-789-4693 617-635-3113

The following three City Council Districts will have a Preliminary Election

Bob Ferrara 1776 Columbia Road South Boston MA 02127
Suzanne Lee 1 Nassau Street Boston MA 02111 617-566-9992 617-935-1211
Bill Linehan 128 G Street South Boston MA 02127 617-635-3203 617-224-6911

Frank Baker 43 Grampian Way Dorchester MA 02125 617-288-9061 617-947-9515
Doug Bennett 714 Adams Street Dorchester MA 02122 617-963-4213
Stephanie L Everett 197 Manchester Street Mattapan MA 02126 617-834-8688
Craig M Galvin 23 Cheverus Road Dorchester MA 02124 617-436-2000
Martin J Hogan 491 Ashmont Street Dorchester MA 02122 617-297-5771 617-203-1791
John K O'Toole 114 Minot Street Dorchester MA 02122 617-201-7866 617-287-9398
Marydith E Tuitt 127 Fairmount Street Dorchester MA 02124 617-719-6813

Althea Garrison 98 Howard Avenue Dorchester MA 02125 617-407-7661
Tito Jackson 37 Schuyler Street Dorchester MA 02121 617-442-2837 617-635-3510
Roy Owens 6 Woodville Street Roxbury MA 02119 617-541-4335
Sheneal Parker 30 Symphony Road Boston MA 02115 781-473-0640