21 Rules For Politicians Using Social Media

Mashable’s Brian Solis wrote an excellent post entitled “21 Rules for Social Media Engagement“. They are good rules. I thought I’d add some thoughts from a political perspective because some are doing it way wrong, some just a little wrong and some aren’t doing social media at all (these are the stupid people).

I’m going to include his list and then modify it for politicians and political operatives and probably add some rules of my own:

1. Discover all relevant communities of interest and observe the choices, challenges, impressions, and wants of the people within each network.

Melissa’s Note: Politicians should be social with their interests outside of politics (and I’m not talking about their mistresses). If they run, follow and engage with runners. If they play the guitar, talk music with people, etc.

2. Don’t just participate solely in your own domains (Facebook Fan Page, Twitter conversations related to your brand, etc.). Participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory.

Melissa’s Note: A politician might not care much about Illegal Immigration or the FCC trying to control speech online, but his constituents do and his contribution to the topic would be helpful.

3. Determine the identity, character, and personality of the brand and match it to the persona of the individuals representing it online.

Melissa’s Note: A politician IS a brand. And people interacting can tell when the brand is speaking or some staffer is talking. Because most politicians have such unique voices, when they get on social media, people can tell when it’s them or not.

4. Establish a point of contact who is ultimately responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to all things that can affect brand perception.

Melissa’s Note: THIS IS ESSENTIAL for a politician. There needs to be one person, ultimately, who manages the politician’s brand. There is just too much to keep track of for the politico to do it himself. And social media will alert the politician to brewing issues before they hit everywhere else.

5. As in customer service, representatives require training to learn how to proactively and reactively respond across multiple scenarios. Don’t just put the person familiar with social networking in front of the brand.

Melissa’s Note: A word of caution. Many so-called social media experts, ESPECIALLY inside the beltway tend to be very stupid when it comes to how to relate on social media. They may be good a technical stuff (although I haven’t been very impressed with that either), but socially awkward online. Social media is about relationships, first.

6. Embody the attributes you wish to portray and instill. Operate by a code of conduct.

Melissa’s Note: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online. And being a jerk online is forever.

7. Observe the behavioral cultures within each network and adjust your outreach accordingly.

Melissa’s Note: Social networks have different personalities. Different forums require a different approach and will reach different people. Some people never leave certain online “neighborhoods” and so just like a politician has to walk neighborhoods and shake hands, he has to go to the people in the online neighborhoods. (By the way, these are his most active and informed constituents.)

8. Assess pain points, frustrations, and also those of contentment in order to establish meaningful connections.

Melissa’s Note: Social media offers politicians extraordinary ability to answer questions easily and solve problems. They should do it and win huge points with constituents, too, because it’s public.

9. Become a true participant in each community you wish to activate. Move beyond marketing and sales.

Melissa’s Note: THIS IS IMPORTANT: It is better to not be on social media then be on it solely to have a one-sided conversation. Making declarations non-stop is not social. It’s using a social medium as a bullhorn.

10. Don’t speak at audiences through canned messages. Introduce value, insight and direction with each engagement.

Melissa’s Note: A politician can do this by breaking down his roles. For example, every politician should have a Twitter feed of his public schedule and video links of appearances. Could be Senator “A” news or something. A personal account should be personal, in my opinion. That is, the only time it’s used is for the politician him or herself, to talk.

11. Empower your representatives to offer rewards and resolutions in times of need.

Melissa’s Note: If a politician has a staffer doing social media, the person should not have to clear every tweet, post with the politician. If a politician doesn’t trust the person enough to do it, then he’s got the wrong person. Which leads to another point. Social media can be more impactful than even a Press person. Choose wisely.

12. Don’t just listen and placate – act. Do something.

Melissa’s Note: What he said.

13. Ensure that any external activities are supported by a comprehensive infrastructure to address situations and adapt to market conditions and demands.

Melissa’s Note: Twitter show’s the political market not just in real time, but ahead of time. A proactive politician will see the trends and be ready before the storm hits. I would venture to guess that it might be as effective as polling, and it’s certainly cheaper.

14. Learn from each engagement and provide a path within the company to adapt and improve products and services.

Melissa’s Note: If a politician doesn’t have a sophisticated system for answering voter concerns, I really wonder why he’s in the business. This should be self-evident.

15. Consistently create, contribute, and reinforce service and value.

Melissa’s Note: For a politician, say like Scott Brown recently, he should be using social media to explain his rationale for voting certain ways. That adds value. People want to understand a politician’s perspective even if they disagree.

16. Earn connections through collaboration and empower advocacy.

Melissa’s Note: Too many politicians are islands. They have actual fans. I know, it’s difficult to believe. But politicians have fan-boys and girls willing to push up a positive message about said politician. It would be wise to connect with and collaborate with these people.

17. Don’t get lost in translation. Ensure your communication and intent is clear and that your involvement maps to objectives created for the social web.

Melissa’s Note: Have a plan, Stan. This is not a throw-away part of the business. Please don’t be stupid. And if you have a press person or media person minimizing the impact of social media, fire him. He is a complete and total moron.

18. Establish and nurture beneficial relationships online and in the real world as long as doing so is important to your business.

Melissa’s Note: This is CRUCIAL. And, thankfully, easy. Want to meet up with locals, as one of my local politicians wanted to? Contact one of the “thought leaders” and they’ll round up people on the ground locally. Translate the online world into real world.

19. “Un-campaign” and create ongoing programs that keep you connected to day-to-day engagement.

Melissa’s Note: There are cycle-specific ways to interact with social media, but there should always be a social media presence. It should be as much a part of a politician’s life as the local op-ed.

20. “Un-market” by becoming a resource to your communities.

Melissa’s Note: What this means is don’t just spew your view, be helpful. Be personal. Be normal. Tell folks where you love to eat and why, as an example. People love that kind of thing and it’s helpful.

21. Give back, reciprocate, and recognize notable contributions from participants in your communities.

Melissa’s Note: Be respectful to the opinion leaders in the different forums and know them. Interact with them. And recognize helpful citizens.

There are a couple technical things that matter to me:

1. I do NOT like other people tweeting for a notable person.

2. Instead, make the Twitter account clearly state that it’s a record of activities, press releases, etc.

3. If another person tweets on an official account use this: ^ and the person’s initials: So say this, “Just finished at the gun range. Sarah hit the target every time. TWITPIC” ^MC This sort of tweeting makes it very easy for people to connect with the person doing the tweet.

Mindy Finn said that she talked to someone who said that social media wasn’t very important and the person was a consultant. I’m not surprised.

Social media is not going away. And for politicians, it’s critical for success.

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