Monday, June 14, 2010

Analyzing Roy Barnes' online presence


So, the analyzation of Nathan Deal's online presence went over relatively well - or as well as can be expected for unsolicited constructive criticism... Now let's take a peek at the left side of the aisle....

Roy Barnes: Democratic Candidate for Governor

Political art by Ken BaldowskiRoy Barnes' odds haven't improved much since my last post on the subject. Nathan Deal's lead over Barnes has remained steady, according to Rasmussen Reports, which still has Deal leading 47 to 40 percent. However, instead of trailing all three of the leading GOP candidates, Barnes is now edging out Eric Johnson by 4 percent.

Now to his online presence...

Mr. Barnes retains the fortunate advantage of having gone through all of this before, as the former governor or Georgia; so he and his team likely understand the value of online presence as well as anyone else in this race - as is evidenced, perhaps, by the fact that his campaign website's SEO is so strong that it comes up as the first result when Googling his name.

The Barnes website has a bit more going on than Mr. Deal's. Most relevant information is just one layer deep into the page - i.e. accessible within one click from the home page. It's also nice not to be accosted with pleas for cash at every corner. The "Contribute" option is still predominantly placed in the upper-right corner of the website - so it works well, and it's not overpowering.

His YouTube content is well integrated into the website through the "Roy TV" tab on the home page. The "Georgia Connect" feature is neat and edgy, but I highly doubt it's worth the effort. The same interactions taking place there could just as easily happen on his Facebook page, where his reach is undoubtedly exponentially greater.

The option to "Reserve your Yard Sign" is a nice merging of new and traditional media. The whole idea is to make it easy for people to become advocates of your brand - so it's a nice addition. There are a lot of interactive options scattered throughout the website (though I'd recommend move the social media toward the top of the page - ensuring that they're visible irrespective on one's resolution), but what I don't see is a live feed of any kind. The Page feels a bit stagnant.

I suppose the "Around Georgia" aspect of the website serves as it's news feed, but it only feeds two stories onto the page. I don't understand why, when the whole feed puts out several stories at least every other day or so. Really, that solitary video on the right and the news feed would be best if they switch positions.

All in all, I'd give the website an A-, very well done.

On to the social media.

I'm a bit surprised that the Barnes team isn't taking advantage of Flickr. Certainly, his PR team collects a whole set of photos for his many public appearances. There are two great things about Flickr. First, it's the preeminent website for images. So, when people are looking for images of Roy Barnes, Flickr's the best medium to provide them with what they're looking for; in other words, your images have the best opportunity of being discovered organically on Flickr. Second, Flickr provides images in a host of sizing options (including the original file size). So, publicists can send Flickr links instead of files to the media - reducing inbox clutter - and people can use your Flickr page as an imagery resource without having to bother your team every time they need the highest resolution version of a particular image. I might also add that Flickr's pretty easy to integrate with the other major social media (and your website).

The Barnes team employed the use of an RSS feed, which is a smart inclusion - and it's even smarter that they're feeding news into it rather than a calendar.

The YouTube channel is... pedestrian. I expected a professionally designed page for someone who's been a governor and hopes to be again. A simple banner or wallpaper would go a long way toward dressing the page up. As far as content goes... I'm not impressed. Almost every video is a commercial. There's no personality, no real substance. Why not post the television interviews he's had? Clips from debates? Him actually having a conversation with someone?

Adding commercials to your YouTube Channel is fine, but it hardly optimizes the medium. A fair share of the videos have comments disabled, there appears to be no interaction or outreach from the Barnes channel (in an attempt at inbound marketing), and they haven't even bothered to collect a list of relevant video "favorites." The latter of these is perhaps the greatest travesty. Why not take some time to aggregate preexisting YouTube videos about Roy Barnes? Seems like a missed opportunity...

As we turn to the Barnes Facebook, I see where his team hangs the photos... all eight of them. There's nothing inherently wrong with posting images or videos to Facebook, but they can't be found organically and they only come in one size (and it's not high-res). The Facebook page itself looks pretty inactive.

I'm getting the impression that the Barnes team front-loaded it's online investments into building the infrastructure for its website, but failed to hire a person or two to maintain his social media. It's better to have a weak presence than none at all, but when you only post once every few days, the odds of you appearing in many your fans' streams are greatly reduced. Likewise, your capacity to grow your online community (i.e. reach) becomes greatly inhibited.

Not surprisingly, there appears to be very little response from the Barnes team to most of the comments and questions posted all over his wall. Another missed opportunity. His fans came to his page to interact with him and get to know him better. Would he flatly ignore people who asked him questions at a town hall meeting? Certainly not. Why is Facebook any different?

I'm impressed by the Barnes Twitter channel. There's a good variety of content, and plenty of hashtag and @reply usage. It's so good - as compared to his other social media - that I'm inclined to think he or his personal aide are responsible for its content. That's always a good approach - especially for a medium as brief and immediate as Twitter.

Unfortunately for the Barnes team, his following-to-follower ratio is pretty poor (about 2:1). This tells me that either Mr. Barnes personally decided to follow a lot of news outlets (for personal information consumption) that don't usually follow back (which doesn't appear to be the case after a cursory glance at his following list), or whoever is running his channel did not strategically select the host of people he's following to optimize his odds of follow-backs.

That said, he's posted just 70 tweets but has 876 followers. That's almost 12.5 followers for every one tweet. Not a terrible ratio, to be sure.

Like Mr. Deal, Mr. Barnes also has a minor presence on LinkedIn. Given politicians' propensity for fund-raising and organizing, I am shocked that more politicians don't take full advantage of this, the most affluent of all social media. His Wikipedia page, the second Google result when searching for his name, is fairly flushed out - most likely because of his prior service as governor.

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All in all, the Barnes team has done a pretty nice job in getting their candidate out there. There is, of course, much more they could be doing. Some of which is mentioned above, the rest would take forever to explain in text. That being said, I'd have to say Deal and Barnes (their respective parties' leading gubernatorial candidates in Georgia for the time being) have about the same level of online outreach.

Which begs the question - are they even aware that the internet is a battlefield worth winning, or are they simply online because they think it's expected of them? Social media are venues like any other. If you want to optimize a venue, you have to take the classic considerations into account: audience, purpose, setting, etc. Neither candidate is optimizing their online presence. If the ultimate vote gets close, they will certainly regret not doing more to increase their online reach and the effectiveness thereof.
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