Sunday, May 09, 2010

So-So Social Media So Far

Was it fully four years ago that upstart Deval Patrick was exploiting the net on his way to our governor's office? Since then Facebook, Twitter and countless apps for asses color politics.

What is and isn't races fascinates me. As surprised as I've been that our treasurer's race offers real distinctions, I've wondered at the candidates' use and non-use of online tools.
Disclaimer: So far, we at Left Ahead! have gotten Steven Grossman on a show. He's very impressive. I've asked both Dem Steve Murphy and Republican Karyn Polito to join us, through their campaigns. Murphy's people replied but will set it up. I've heard nothing from Polito or her folk.
In a very unscientific survey of a very small universe — three, contenders for MA treasurer vary in their attempts to find their way to campaigning with online tools. Grossman, Karyn Polito and Steve Murphy all have Facebook pages. State Rep. Polito and Boston Councilor Murphy have non-campaign sites for their offices. They are legally required to keep those separate from fund-raising and pure politicking.

For campaign sites, Grossman and Polito's are fully operational. In a follow-up email podcast request to Murphy, I made a snide comment about the nakedness of his. In their phone follow-up to me, his scheduler lamented that they indeed knew that it showed no content and that it was supposed to be ready three weeks ago. You just can't get good help, eh?

For Twitter, Grossman and Polito have active accounts. Murphy doesn't appear to tweet, as we say.

So, as I am (perhaps excessively) fond of asking my sons, "What can we learn from this?"


Kind of the tomato catchup of the web, Facebook is necessary for politicians. Many of us, me included, expect to find fully fleshed out pages for anyone running for anything. At the least, you can claim bragging right if your FB site has a large or huge number of fans. This phenomenon is new enough that we can't know yet how that extrapolates to votes or contributions though.

All three treasurer would-be folk have FB pages. Murphy's is lightly populated and really doesn't do much better than his bare campaign website. Grossman's is very complete. Polito's is fair.

Murphy. Not a lot of effort is evident here. His campaign doesn't seem to get new media from the look of this. He apparently has no Twitter feed. The only contact info is an email address. There's no campaign pitch and oddly no link to the campaign website. There's a single photo, the same one available on the small campaign flier included in the photo tab. It has no discussions and a single month-old event. His wall postings feature mostly requests for help getting signatures. 776 people have clicked Like.

Grossman. His page has effort in all categories. It links to both Twitter feed and campaign site. He has 28 photo albums, most political but a few from his business and general public speaking. He has a Boxes area with 45 links (including his LA podcast). He plugged in one artificial discussion, a fan saying how she asked a bunch of folk to become fans. He has an inspiring Ted-Kennedy entry in Notes. His Video tab has six entries. His wall blends where he will campaign, whom he met and what happened at stops, what media exposure he'll get, shows he'll be on, and notices afterward, generally with links. He also has posts on a running bit about where he stops for ice cream, in other words, he does a good job of showing himself and personalizing the wall. 2068 people have clicked Like.

Polito. She or her staff haven't put too much into this. She has a personal, state-rep page, and cannibalizes it for this not-very-up-to-date page. The state-rep version actually has more stuff, for example six newsy videos to zero. She uses many of the same photos, largely of her legislative election and service. She's been hitting the circuit running for treasurer, but the treasurer page doesn't reflect that yet. Her campaign website runs her latest tweets on the front, but the Facebook page doesn't even link to her Twitter feed. The personal page has treasurer-related fund-raisers and other events, while the campaign page doesn't even have a tab. There are no discussions and the Info tab doesn't even suggest any reasons to vote for her. Her wall mentions her campaign stops. 1721 people have clicked Like.


Two of the three candidates tweet, Polito and Grossman. She seems to be fond of the idea, featuring her latest on her campaign website's front page. Grossman is the most active tweeter and varies his tweets more.

Her typical tweet is where she will campaign or her most recent stop. For two examples:
Had a great time at the Hazen Paper learning about their printing company in beautiful Holyoke! #matreas #mapoli

Whirlwind of a day! Boston in the AM, then to W. Boylston, Shrewsbury, Plainville, Salisbury and now home...Western MA tomorrow! #matreas
She seems to tweet twice on a typical day.

Grossman does more — two is low and four is common. For example:
Happy Mother's Day to my mom Shirley, mother-in-law Bunny, wife Barbara, daughter-in-law Mary Jo & all the incredible moms out there!
I'll be on "On the Record" with Ed Harding & Janet Wu on @NewsBoston Sunday at 11am - tune in to channel 5, WCVB! #mapoli #matres
I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for my candidacy @ the MNW Democratic Alliance mtg in Medway this morning! #thankyou #matres

Delicious Heath Bar ice cream & great friends @ the Spruce Pond Creamery in Franklin! #icecreamtour #matres
He seems to be on a lot more media interviews and shows. He pre-announces those, may run a link to the broadcast later, and includes personal as well as campaign posts.

In terms of understanding the medium, Polito seems a noob. Her website's News section ran a passive-aggressive challenge nearly two and one-half weeks ago, "I look forward to debating with Steve on who is best suited to act as a watchdog against the excesses of the one-party political machine on Beacon Hill." Grossman responded publicly two days later with a tweet, reading, "@karyn4treasurer, I accept your invitation to debate. Let’s talk jobs, holding big banks accountable, & protecting people’s $. When & where? " Three days after that, following the Left Ahead! podcast with Grossman, I tweeted her, "When are you taking Steve Grossman up on a treasurer debate?@karyn4treasurer." She has yet to respond to either.

In contrast, Grossman responds to tweets to him publicly or directly. He gets the conversational aspect.

There's no Twitter surprise. The use parallels the other aspects. The candidate most fully formed in one medium is so in the others.

Campaign Site

For Murphy, comparisons are unfair. I'll revisit that when his site really comes on line. Meanwhile:

Grossman. His campaign site is state of the medium. It has all features activated, from videos to audio clips to links to the big for social networks and related sites (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube), personal and pol endorsements, links to newspaper, broadcast and blog coverage, detailed personal, family, political and business profile, and both overview and drill-down coverage of his stances on issues. Other than too much gray runs of text in his issues, this is a professionally produced, highly accessible site. His events calendar is very detailed with links per entry. His support area provides seven ways to help, from monetary contributions to volunteering to endorsing and on and on. This very well planned site seems to use the best of available concepts and technologies.

Polito. Her site is good, but not better than that, particularly in contrast to Grossman's. The same designers did her state-rep site. Both sites are heavy on graphics and lighter on content. Unfortunately, the effect is often unsubstantial. For examples, the two videos on the campaign site purport to introduce Polito, but do not. The one right now on the home page, Happy Mother's Day from Karyn Polito, (also available on YouTube) claims to let you meet her but only talks about her elderly relatives. I think we know the difference. The image quality is high and you can even choose resolution. However, the production values are extremely poor in the low volume, the distracting and unnecessary background music, and the itty-bitty head and shoulders view swimming in the large frame. Likewise, the out-of-place Columbus Day video at the bottom of the Meet Karyn Polito page plays silly, distracting tunes while it shows snapshots of her forebears leading to her, trivializing the whole family while revealing nothing of Polito herself. The News is not new at all, even though her tweets suggest she's working the campaign. The Donate and Get Involved (volunteer) are adequate but about two elections behind in being enticing. Her Priorities, which she uses instead of issues or platform, are five buzzword phrases with no solid content, just vague descriptions. She apparently has no endorsements and for the life of me, I can't figure out why she doesn't put up current video, news, and media links. Where's the beef?

Media Whizzes and Wheezes

Elections are not determined by use of social media. Yet, as Patrick showed four years ago, netroots can be like grassroots in motivating support. Particularly younger voters appreciate candidates of whatever age making good use of current technologies, their technologies.

Oddly, Polito is the youngest at 43 or 44, Murphy is roughly a decade older and Grossman a decade older than him. The latter seems by far the tech savviest, making the best use of Twitter as well as having the beefiest and most inviting website and Facebook page.

The positive aspect for Grossman is not that he gets geek cred, but that you can follow his tweets, read his wall or pore over his site, coming away from any and all with the clearest sense of what he's been about and what he intends to do. Murphy's people say they know he's behind and intend to correct that. For Polito's sake, she'd benefit from friends or advisers letting her know the shortcomings in her presentations.

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