Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Social Media Aware PC MLAs

There's a new site for members of the government caucus: In all fairness, it's a pretty good site, but I'm a little puzzled by this section, which seems to offer Albertans advice on how to use social media.

The title of the page reads, "The Nine Commandments of Social Media," and reads more like something of interest to politicians aiming to manipulate social media than a guideline for ordinary Albertans. My favourite bits:

Thou Shalt be Honest – it’s a pretty good maxim to live by in all areas of life but it s particularly true online. If you’re telling a lie or trying to pull a fast one, you will always get caught out. Bad news travels fast, so any lies you do tell are certain to come back to haunt you.

Thou Shalt Have an Opinion – if you are scared to voice your point of view you will struggle to get anyone to listen to you. There’s a level of professionalism we should all strive for but it’s a lot lower than you might think!

Was this page really intended as advice for Albertans who sign up for facebook and twitter? If so, what's it doing on This reads more like an internal document, intended for MLAs who are thinking about using social media...if so, why give away your secret social media marketing tricks?

Strange indeed.


Anonymous said...

I've seen social media secret political tricks. These look nothing like them. These look like good common-sense advice.

Condsider that the more youthful generation has becomed accustomed to being open and unabashed about their on-line activities. Many are genuinely surprised at how easy it can be to track comments back to their origins, especially with a smidge of rudimentary detective work in Facebook or Myspace.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, looking back, I want to add to my previous statement, even if there are only a couple of folks reading this.

I would suggest that there are three levels of secret political tricks used in public venues.

The first and perhaps highest level concerns the personal affiliations of the politician. Maybe it's as simple as who you know in the world, but I am thinking of the preponderance of men in high office who also hold rank with the Masons, the Tri-Lateral Commission, and so on, or who graduated from the same class in law school, or who belong to a particular church, union, or other large social organization.

I am not prepared to comment on how being a Mason will help your political career, but I will suggest that there may be some secrets involved there. From what I have seen, if you are a politician you must rely on your personal associations to get ahead. I doubt that's a secret in itself, but I would think that for some people, their associations and affiliations themselves may be highly guarded.

The second level of "secret" tricks lies in the fact that political parties are astute in the fields of applied psychology and sociology. A political organization that is successful will understand the latest advances of group and individual dynamics, and apply them rigorously.

The newest field in this endeavour has to do with computer-based social networking. There is a lot of interesting literature on the subject. I wouldn't say that this information is secret per se. Mostly, the public chooses not to follow these issues closely, whereas successful political agents do.

The final level of secret tricks involves information-gathering practises and databases. Information on individuals and the public at large is routinely gathered. Maybe you've taken a survey that asked you how you voted in the last election? The method for gathering this information ranges from simply taking down notes to huge databases that are bought and sold by brokers. How you gather a database isn't so much the secret, rather what is in the database is extremely secret and valuable. It would seem obvious that if you had a good collection of data on how the constituents of a region voted (how often, voted for whom, did they vote for the party the person or the issue), then you could tailor your campaign to fit that constituency. You wouldn't be wasting money, time, or effort on people or issues that are not important to getting the almighty votes.

I should add that there may be one other level of secrecy involved. Political life is very public, yet the politician may have some personal issues they would want to keep private: deviant behaviour, a criminal background, secret wealth, whatever. I have no strong idea on how to keep those secrets. Possibly, the more entrenched you are in politics, the more options you will have to keep your secrets secret. Think of "Teflon Jean" and how he managed to dodge scandal after scandal. Or perhaps compare and contrast Presidents Kennedy and Clinton. I would think the more power you wield, the more people will work for you to keep your secrets safe. On the flip side of the coin, though, you would also have to pay more to keep your secrets, as you rivals would work all the harder to expose them. Like "Deep Throat" said: follow the money...