New to Twitter? Tips for @nicolassarkozy
@nicolassarkozy only joined Twitter this morning and has over 40 thousand followers already (whether they're all real accounts that existed before yesterday themselves might be another question, but still) which is pretty good for someone who's only posted two pretty anodyne tweets so far - "I've joined Twitter" and "watch me on TV this evening" basically. The news caused a frenzy in newsrooms across Paris, with some older colleagues heard to ask what Twitter is and what it does - but surely the actual question is, what on earth has taken so long? This isn't this week's only social media-related controversy in French politics - the president has a new all-singing all-dancing Facebook page, using the Timeline to highlight the parts of his record he'd like you to remember and gloss skilfully over the bits he'd rather forget (divorce when he first became president, being spokesman for Edouard Balladur's 1995 election campaign that's become synonymous with dodgy money, etc.). L'Express magazine today reports his team had help from Facebook staff to set it up, giving them an 'unfair advantage' before the new functionality was available to everyone. There is a slight flaw in this story, though - the Timeline features the profile uses have been available to everyone since last September, so if you had paid attention to Facebook announcements and spent as much time on the site as the Sarkozy team over the last few months (I know you did, I mean you could have spent it productively) you too would have a profile this good at selling yourself. That goes for you, and, of course, François Hollande's campaign team, who are the ones caught lacking here. Again, the question is: why are they so behind?
French voters are at least as internet-savvy and present on social networks as those in the US, for example, and yet politicians simply aren't using the medium to connect with them well enough. Where are they going wrong? Politicians' tweets have drawn attention for overstepping the line, either in embarrassment - @Eric_Besson trying to seduce his wife via Twitter, thinking he was sending her a private message - or insult, with minister @nadine_morano nicknamed 'Sarkozy's attack dog' byt the media for her Twitter barbs, and then using the medium to hit back at the journalists concerned as well. We've identified Political Networking Error no.1, then - remember that while SOME mild banter goes with the terrain, you aren't texting your best friend. It's a public medium. If running for office, don't say anything you wouldn't on the evening news. Politicians' personal vendettas against other politicians/particular journalists are of interest to no one except politicians and journalists.
Compare those French ministers with the @BarackObama feed - sounds human, but tweets nothing negative or attacking, instead asking followers to 'share what tax cuts mean to you' or 'let us know what inspired you to support Barack Obama'. See, it makes you feel all warm and fluffy inside - and by asking readers for their own views and stories, and retweeting them, it creates a genuine sense of community, which is what was the real key to Obama's oh-so-successful social media strategy in 2008. If people are to really believe in a campaign, they have to think it cares about them - Political Networking Error no.2, then is It's Not About You, It's About The Voters. Yes, getting some sense of a politicians' real personality is great, but on Twitter, a good campaign should make followers feel they're in a discussion, not a lecture. This is where @fhollande's otherwise pretty decent Twitter feed goes wrong - it tends to tweet virtually the entire text of major speeches 120 characters at a time, which gets as dull as that sounds.
Political Networking Error no.3 - actually provide information. Sounds obvious, but the Obama 2012 Facebook page can tell you where to find a rally or a meeting on just about any street in the US (and get you GoogleMaps directions), how to volunteer for the campaign, direct you to an archive of favourite Obama clips, AND tell you how much the President likes Miles Davis and Toni Morrison, just like a real person's profile. You could go to the François Hollande page with a burning desire to help the campaign, though, and it won't actually tell you how to do anything more than watch his next TV interview. Social networking is meant to get people involved.
Political Networking Error no.4 - Facebook and Twitter denizens are adults, as much as voters you press the flesh with on visits to factories and cheese shops. Your campaign team might have worked out this is a way to connect with that hard-to-reach youth demographic, but you still need to talk about serious issues seriously. Use real words. Abbreviate with care. No smileys. No one wants their country to be run by someone who uses smileys.
Having said all that, at least the candidates have worked out social media IS a campaign terrain, as much as going on walkabouts in rural villages, and they're trying, bless them. Keep following them and you know, by election day they might have read this and raised their game.
@elenaf24 is always worth a follow too, of course. ;-)