If you are interested in government affairs like me, you are likely subscribed to many different political party newsletters and social networks with numerous candidates. In government relations, one is quick to realize that we work with the “Government of the Day” and thus it is critical to keep abreast of all party policy development and platforms. It is also really important to build relationships with candidates in anticipation of them some day forming government. Getting to know someone on a personal level is still an important part of building relations. Social networks afford the political parties and candidates with that opportunity.

Political parties have long been known for their “between campaign” email, phone and fundraising efforts. There is a constant flow of direct snail mail and email solicitations and phone polling throughout the year.

That said, I think that many are truly missing the real opportunity that exists for them in “social” media. I find that the majority of emails, tweets or posts from political candidates are one way broadcasts, rather than seizing the opportunity to engage in dialogue. Have you ever responded to the email from the “campaign spokesperson” ? I find that responding usually does not result in any response back. Thus the “campaign spokesperson” is a mass generated one way communication to push a message and not engage in dialogue. It looked personal, they signed it, they wanted you to feel that it was personal…but it was totally impersonal and issued en masse.

How many potential supporters, volunteers or interested voters are sitting out there attempting to respond to this “spam” to no avail ?

I would suggest that Facebook and Twitter are also failing for many political campaigns in a similar regard. A quick scan across many party sites and candidate profiles would suggest that the dialogue is minimal, but the messaging and propaganda is rich and constant. Have you tweeted or commented on a candidate or elected official profile lately ? There are a few that are really great in engaging in dialogue, but the majority are still using the social network as a channel to push their message, not engage in dialogue. It goes back to my provocation that you need a “purpose” for your social network channels and profiles. Don’t just have one because someone said you should. It needs to be managed to help you achieve your goals and political or party aspirations.

So…what’s my point ?

My point is that I think that social media offers political parties and candidates a wonderful opportunity to actually engage in a conversation with their targeted constituents. Take the time and invest the resource in actually having someone monitoring and following up within these social networks to truly show that you care, that you listen and that you are willing to take action in the interests of the voting public and constituents, rather than just pushing your propaganda out through these social network channels. There are lots of channels for you to “advertise”, social media is an opportunity to “socialize”.

The result ?  Through engagement and conversation you will build a conversation that will eventually turn to loyalty. Or, the conversation will evolve to a point where you know whether the individual is supportive or not on side. At least at that stage there will be a data point to manage, rather than an assumption that the one way communication is having any impact at all.

If you have some examples of some “pros” at using social media in the political context, let’s hear about them here !