Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential bid proved that social media and digital PR are vital to the success of politicians. We have ushered in a new era, one in which politicians and voters connect online for a refreshingly honest dialogue. Now nearly three years since the Change posters took over our towns, Facebook is filled with politicians selling their ideas and looking for votes. There’s just one problem. For the most part, their Facebook pages totally stink.
Take California gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown’s page, for example. Less of a ringing endorsement for Brown, the page should be called the “Why Meg Whitman Sucks Page.” Yes, Brown should use his page to respond to competitor Whitman, but not the whole page. Nearly every status update says something about Whitman, signaling that Brown simply is offering the same old mudslinging through new technology. And let’s get one thing clear: Just because you have a Facebook page doesn’t make you hip or “with it.” Brown’s FB copy is so dusty that it might as well have been written in calligraphy on a scroll. His PR peeps aren’t exactly helping with the “he’s too old” image problem. On the plus side, Brown has a cool “Fighting For” page that breaks down his causes. It’s way too wordy, but at least it’s well thought out and gives voters a checklist of his campaign promises.
Whitman scores no love in the FB department, either. Where Brown suffers from being long-winded, Whitman’s page is as vague as eBay product descriptions. What’s she stand for? What’s her experience? Who knows, but she does have photos of her in South Gate and clips of her Spanish radio ad! In a mislabeled section called “Join Meg” we find what her top three priorities are which, when clicking on them, redirect us to her website for more details. This is a belly flop for Whitman; as someone new to big-time politics, who she is and what she wants to do have to be front and center. The biggest shocker here is how flat and uninteresting the whole page is, especially considering the fact that Whitman made her mark with new media. It has zero personality, and for a newcomer, this is a big mistake.
I point this stuff out not to show my utter distaste for modern politics (that’s just a bonus!) but as a learning tool. Politicians like Brown and Whitman are salespeople, plain and simple. Facebook success depends on being concise, engaging and current. Without these components, the tool is misused and more than just not worth the effort – bad social media marketing and PR can be death to a campaign.