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Best practices on social media communication for political figures and parties


Published on

How to build a team, choose the tools,
adopt good practices and get ready to daily work

Bruxelles, 10-12 may 2012
Pes activist ‘Train the Trainers’ event

Published in: News & Politics, Business
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Best practices on social media communication for political figures and parties

  1. Best practiceson social media communicationfor political figures la partiesGianni Florido e andProvincia di TarantoHow to build a team, choose the tools,adopt good practices and get ready to daily work Strategia di comunicazioneBruxelles, 10-12 may 2012Pes activist ‘Train the Trainers’ eventDino Amenduni, Proforma, Italy
  2. Who is speaking?My name is Dino Amenduni(electronic business card)I am the new media team leader and advisor forpolitical communication at Proforma, acommunication agency in Bari, my hometown,where I studied and live and workI am a blogger on Fatto Quotidiano, national dailynewspaper (link) and among the founders ofQuink, a collective of satire and media-activism(
  3. Preliminary remarksWhy invest in social media?
  4. Why invest in social media?More and more politicians use social media for their electoral campaignsand official communicationYou go online because it is trendy or because politicians sense thepotentialities of a tool that can make them (partially) independentfrom the logic of traditional media or even because you hope to beable to influence the political agenda by means of well-designedcommunication strategiesMore simply, you engage in social media for pleasure, or interest,regardless of electoral campaigns. Usually, these are the mostappreciated profiles
  5. Why invest in social media?More on social media, electoral campaigns can be won or lost. Awrong act of communication during a TV face-off (or on any traditionalcommunication means) can be turned into a large mobilization throughword of mouth (positive or negative) spontaneously originated on theInternet and spread without the help of the staff of the candidate or ofthe partyThose candidates who apply to the social media the same strategies asthe ones used by traditional communication media are doomed to failThe Web is paramount when you make mistakes more than when youinteract successfully. It is vital to make no mistake and to magnify theothers’ mistakes
  6. Why invest in social media?Many prominent politicians already have a profile on Facebook andTwitter. We cannot say the same for local candidates or for thefederations of local partiesWe have to ask them to make an effort: it is important to show thepotentialities of team work, also because the level of aggressiveness of“second lines” is very likely to increase during elections, and along withthat, the complexity of the dynamics relevant to the building up ofonline public opinion
  7. Why invest in social media?Those politicians who are web-sceptical must be told very clearly that ifyou do not use the Internet, you will end up putting up with it: it isnot necessary for someone to communicate online to make people talkabout them. Moreover, word of mouth can be both positive andnegative, the only difference being that if you are not online, not“present” on the Web, you cannot influence communication there.For all the above reasons, nowadays it is inevitable to be on the InternetWhatever the reason why a politician uses Facebook, Youtube, Twitterand all the other social media, he cannot confine himself to just beingspontaneous or experimental. This is true according to what it has beensaid so far: if everybody is online, you must do more and better tostand out
  8. A. Organization Step one:building up a work team
  9. Building up a work teamManaging the web communication of a political figure requires the sameeffort as the one necessary to set up a press office or a team whichdeals with media planning and event planningIt is therefore impossible and sometimes harmful to entrust the wholebulk of the work to a single person, whereas at the same time a singlecoordinator can manage all the “2.0” profiles both on the content leveland in terms of political strategyTherefore, we need to single out a person who is a reference point forthis macro-area
  10. Building up a work teamManaging the web communication of a political figure requires the sameeffort as the one necessary to set up a press office or a team whichdeals with media planning and event planningIt is therefore impossible and sometimes harmful to entrust the wholebulk of the work to a single person, whereas at the same time a singlecoordinator can manage all the “2.0” profiles both on the content leveland in terms of political strategyTherefore, we need to single out a person who is a reference point forthis macro-area
  11. Building up a work teamWe think that any electoral campaign staff must include a strategiccoordinator for online communication (who can also act, in case ofcandidates with a limited budget or no budget at all), whose objectivesand tasks are as follows:a. understanding the overall strategic indications of thecampaign: strategy, positioning, key words, opponent’s behavior,monitoring the content production;b. having talks with the various area coordinators so that thestrategy becomes homogeneous (the so called “control room” made upby the politician, his staff, the political secretaries of his coalition andby their communication experts);c. passing on the strategic information to his work group
  12. Building up a work teamThe editorial staff will not be able to know nor will necessarily have toknow every detail of the strategy nor will have to be expert in politics. Itis more important that the social media staff is made up by peoplewho have communicative and creative skills rather than by politicaltactics expertsTherefore, the coordinator has to compensate for the possible lack ofpolitical vision and, in a certain way, to protect his staff so that theycan work well and usefully, only focusing on the technical/creativecomponents of their role
  13. Building up a work teamIn order to support the coordinator / person responsible for new mediait is highly recommended to rotate experts who will deal with the “raw”creation of contents:1. Videomaker: He must be able to record and video edit thepublic speeches of the politician (public initiatives, interviews) andrecordings of TV appearances (debates, news broadcast, talk shows). Hemust be able to follow the politician in any of his public activity, evenimprompt (for example, a dialogue with a citizen in a bar) and, at thesame time, be in a position to capture the opponents’ behavior (or theirstaff’s or the behavior of their political area) that can bring consensus tothe politician and to his party
  14. Building up a work team1. VideomakerHe also has to deal with possible format specifically designed for the Web. This task will depend on the strategic evaluation based on the staff structure, on the will to invest time and resources on online communication during elections, on the feedback originated by our intervention and, in general, by the citizens’ reaction to the scientific impact of communicationThe videomaker does not need to have political competence, particularly if he works in tandem with the editorial staff who will suggest the video editing strategies and the video upload on Youtube.At any rate, a staff who is politically competent is always helpful in making decisions and is highly recommended
  15. Building up a work team2. PhotographerHe can be the same person as the videomaker or another member of the staff (for example his spokesperson/press agent). He has to give evidence of the politician’s public appearances (not necessarily in connection with electoral actions - they can be convivial situations with friends, colleagues, family), of official meetings, events, places closely linked to the themes of his electoral campaign. We suggest opening a Flickr channel (, which is a social network dedicated to photo publishing. With an annual $25 subscription fee you can upload an unlimited number of high quality pictures; this becomes another useful tool for successful 2.0 communication and, at the same time, a practical and cheap archive
  16. Building up a work team3. WebmasterHe must be able to design a web site, update it and manage its content. If possible, he must be able to design Facebook applicationsThese tools can greatly foster the content distribution, especially if they are associated to “lighter” or playful elements which make complex topics and themes simpler. These can be videogames, quizzes, prizes, creativity contests or generative interfaces of the electoral campaign. A classical example of “generative communicative politics”, based on the creativity of users/voters, is the creation of automatic generators of posters, both for spreading one’s communication campaign and for denouncing one’s opponents’ contradictions
  17. Building up a work team3. WebmasterGenerative campaigns, particularly if satirical and oriented to attacking the opponent, are much more effective when they are “open”, that is promoted by autonomous citizens and not developed according to our directions which, obviously being partisan, could be perceived as less credible and genuineThe applications can also be used for specific awareness campaigns or petitions; the playful aspect can be more easily emphasized during electoral meetings and situations than during the daily official/political communication activity
  18. A. Organization Step two: choosing the tools
  19. Choosing the toolsThe internet site has to be suited to the communicative needs of the period. The user should be able to easily find the politician’s view on topical themes and on his political fights, biography, programme, communication literature, interests, photos and videos uploaded on the social network, the voice of his supporters and of the activists of his electoral committeeAs a matter of fact, the site can be useful to attract volunteers who support the politician’s petitions
  20. Choosing the toolsVolunteersThe internet site has to be suited to the communicative needs of the period. The user should be able to easily find the politician’s view on topical themes and on his political fights, biography, programme, communication literature, interests, photos and videos uploaded on the social network, the voice of his supporters and of the activists of his electoral committeeAs a matter of fact, the site can be useful to attract volunteers who support the politician’s petitions
  21. Choosing the toolsVolunteersThis recruiting phase is of paramount importance in case of electionsThe volunteers can be both party activists and ordinary citizens willingto support the electoral campaign. This spontaneous energy should notbe dispersed, on the contrary, it should be turned into action. If aperson only has an hour a week to offer for volunteer work, we shouldnot thwart him but invent activities he can carry on during that time.A group of spontaneous supporters can even submit contents taken fromthe Internet as topics for discussion and food for thought; they can evenmake the staff’s workload lighter
  22. Choosing the toolsVolunteersWork to create a valuable network of supports should start as early as possible since we have to consider (with a bit of cynicism) that a human resource working in our favour is one less in support of our opponents, both inner and external, which is crucial dynamics in case of Primary electionsVolunteers cannot be bought nor co-opted, they are not at everybody’s disposal: they are the basis for the future of any politician, both as far as building up consensus is concerned and for cooperating with associations and interacting with locals. For this reason, great care should be taken in the “blog” section within the site, with original and sometimes informal content
  23. Choosing the toolsThe tools to be used on social media should be chosen knowledgeably and self-evaluating the team management skills. If the staff is limited and therefore a great amount of contents cannot be generated, it is worth taking care of few tools but in a scientific way. A minimal but sufficient kit for making our presence on social network well perceived consists of the following:• Facebook page• Twitter profile• Youtube channel
  24. Choosing the toolsFacebook pageThis is the only institutional communication tool suggested for a politician’s or a party communication. The advantages of a fanpage for a public figure are undeniable. First of all, if a political figure already has a private profile and has no intention of interacting with his real friends on Facebook, he can move his profile to a “page”, without losing any friend (they would become “fans” of the page) and without the need to recover previous well- established contactsUnlike the personal profile, a fanpage can be administered by more people simultaneously. The names of the administrators remain unknown; there is no 5000-friend-limit, as is the case with a personal profile
  25. Choosing the toolsFacebook pageA Facebook user can become a “fan” of the politician without the need for the politician’s consent; this greatly simplifies the administrators’ task in handling the relation. The remaining functions of the fanpage are the same as a personal profile, including the status update functionMoreover, connections between other pages can be established: through a managing system independent from the administrators’ identity (switching) the management interface can be modified at any time and can enable the politician, through the fanpage, to directly interact within the “walls” of other pages
  26. Choosing the toolsFacebook pageWorries regarding the change of strategy or the change from Facebook profile to Facebook fanpage can be reduced and turned into opportunities by means of aimed classified ads on Facebook that can be of interest only to the citizens residing in the city where elections take placeThe regular use of this tool, through communication campaigns initially aimed at making fans subscribe to the fanpage and afterwards at getting them involved in the campaign activities, is by far cheaper than printing press releases and using traditional methodsMoreover, any staff can buy classified ads which will only be seen by fans of the opponents’ fanpage in order to take away consensus
  27. Choosing the toolsTwitter pageTwitter is an extraordinary tool for monitoring the international information system, besides being an agile and ideal interface for creating fast and multimedia information. “Tweets” are short texts containing 140 letters, where you can add external links. Its peculiarity, as compared to Facebook, consists in the possibility to produce and use contents which are already classified by topic, organized by hashtag (#), a code that, written before the keyword, classifies the informationTwitter allows the search for contents by means of a keyword through its search engine also to non members
  28. Choosing the toolsTwitter pageHandling a Twitter profile is very handy for two reasons. The first is connected to the opportunity for automatically updating one’s profile through a minimum handling of the Facebook fanpage (without any integration effort). In order to do so, it is sufficient to create a Twitter profile and then go to to connect the two accountsThe second reason is relevant to a greater presence on the Web achieved with no effort. A user can find a politician or a party navigating Twitter and afterwards going back to the other tools. As an extra tip we suggest that you check the contacts “following” the politician or the party on Twitter
  29. Choosing the toolsTwitter pageThe minimum approach is also advised against: the number of political figures who personally update contents has increased so much that citizens are used to expect the same behavior by anybodyA fair compromise could be some updates written by him in the first person, by means of his personal computer, or smartphone or tablet, and some published by his staff, who clearly sign the tweets in order to avoid blunders or misunderstanding with the public. If managing Twitter personally and monitoring information is too much for you there are some free tools, like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite which allow to receive chosen communication flows always controlled and updated
  30. Choosing the toolsYoutube channelIn the web 2.0 world, videos probably are the most effective media. For this reason, a Youtube channel is indispensable. It can be opened not only by leading politicians or parties but also by activists and younger political figures, even though they do not have their own content production or they do not frequently appear on the media. On this space, you can upload unpublished videos concerning the day by day activities in an electoral committee or around the city, or excerpts from other sources, in particular clips from TV programmes and news broadcast. The ratio between costs (no cost for using the tool, very limited amount for human resources) and benefits is definitely favourable
  31. Choosing the toolsYoutube channelPossible “formats” and thematic daily programmes can be added to the activity at full capacity; they will be chosen and assessed according to the strategy analysis and to the short, medium and long term communication objectivesCandidates can already be present on Youtube without their knowledge, through videos uploaded by other users and, consequently, uncontrolled by their staff: therefore, this is one more reason for emphasizing one’s presence on this popular platform
  32. B. Organization Step three:adopting good practices
  33. Good practices #1 Publish contents constantly and frequentlyOn the Internet you should keep attention always alive. A politician’s spaces on the Web correspond to a personal communication meansTherefore, if you do not communicate, it means you have nothing to say. If you have no personal contents to publish, share contents produced by others, for example by other candidates and local political representatives
  34. Good practices #2 Do not publish political contents exclusivelyPeople want to get to know and talk to the person, not only to the politician or the administrator. Sharing a passion, a hobby or even a weakness can generate consensus. However, this should not lead to a radical change in communicating strategy nor to a fake spontaneity: the person who decides to use social media for communication, should stick to his usual communication style mode. Every politician should try to show his human side without falling off trying to achieve an exaggerated familiarity of relationship, especially if in his political and public life he is a detached person, not incline to an open dialogue with voters
  35. Good practices #3 Use the tag toolTagging a person means to associate him to some content. Facebook has highly increased this procedure thus allowing a person or a page administrator to tag personal profiles, groups and different fanpages when publishing content or a status update. Tagging some content has a twofold advantage: it allows including the tagged people or groups within the community created around the political figure and including oneself in the tagged community, thus multiplying the number of content readers. For this reason it is paramount for the person responsible for the fanpage administration to subscribe to profiles, groups and pages connected to the electoral campaign
  36. Good practices #4 Handle two feedback flowsOne from Facebook to the candidates to their staff, for criticism, questions or issues emerging during the local political debate or having to do with critical aspects of the politician’s public profile. The other from the politician to Facebook, answering the greatest possible number of people. This constant monitoring has two advantages: the former consists in anticipating political timing and in adjusting the strategy “in progress”; the latter consists in the creation of a link on the profiles, pages or groups with which interaction has been established. This strategy should be adopted with great care also in the phases of monitoring one’s opponent
  37. Good practices #5 Avoid censorship or official criticismIf the community supporting the party or the political figure is sound and reliable, the users will stigmatize lamentable behavior themselves, also through reporting improper behavior to Facebook. The same can be applied to the candidate councilors and to smaller communities. For the above reasons, we believe that the attitude to show towards fake profiles, “fakes” (those who offend the politician) should never be one of total rejection and refusal of dialogue. The politician who is criticized should try and be open to the dialogue and confrontation with those who are hostile to him; he could even exploit the fake to attack his opponent
  38. Good practices #6 Foster the greatest possible number of networking mechanismWith big voters, stakeholders, other political figures, inner and external competitors and with their supporters. There are no other equally effective ways to encourage consensus in real timeFrom this point of view, Facebook is a vital tool and a key resource allowing original content to be spread online
  39. Good practices #7 Make all contents and information on the political activity availableFrom posters to leaflets, from policy documents to press releases, from thematic campaigns to local ones, each supporter should be put in the condition to be able to autonomously manage the political and communicative support to the political figure and to the party, without complicating the process by means of control mechanism and approval “from the top”
  40. Good practices #8 Use Facebook and social networks as explicit tools of political communication on the traditional mediaReferring to the links to Facebook, Twitter and Youtube on posters, by quoting one’s own and the supporters’ contributions during TV appearances. The last step is crucial, particularly during a possible live streaming of events of enormous media relevance. These moments of visibility should be taken advantage of for creating a positive circle between mass media exposure and possibility to control the social media incoming communication flowonline communication of offline event -> mentioning offline what
  41. B. Organization Step four:how to get ready for daily fight Advice on content compilation and editing
  42. Get ready for daily work #1 Build one or more flows of personal storyContents should follow one other, comply with highly topical issues whenever possible, move upwards and turn to local, regional, national and international issues – if there is real competence in these matters – or move downwards and deal with people’s feelings and emotions when the politician has shown genuine empathy with these contexts
  43. Get ready for daily work #2 Tell everything liveThe best way to communicate on social media is by using them like everybody else. As we update our status by telling events in our life, uploading pictures of a party or of a place that has deeply moved us, we have to administer a politician’s or a party’s Facebook page. More and more frequently, a politician is chosen as a person. If a person is not on the same wavelength as we, if he does not express humanity and empathy, his political project will not suffice to convince us. That is why it is important for a candidate’s official and non official daily steps to be followed and shared. The quality of the contents generated is not as important as the timing chosen to propose them
  44. Get ready for daily work #3 Rotate contentsRoutine must be avoided on social media. Contents should rotate according to both type and communicative style. In this case, too, a sensible rule should be put into practice. The page should be updated every 60-120 minutes: you can add a status update concerning an event, then a newspaper article, then a photo of past days, then a link to a policy proposal, then a Youtube video of one’s own channel, then a sport status update, then a newspaper article on fashion and so on (the above topics are just examples). You should propose a variety of topics following well recognizable logical and narrative threads assuring the tool coherence without sacrificing the variety of proposed topics
  45. Get ready for daily work #4 Edit contentsA successful action on social media may depend on 30 more seconds of work. We can customize each Facebook content in title and description (box beneath the title). Moreover, a comment can be added to each content, as well as an external link. An extremely precise editing work is perhaps even more crucial with Youtube, where title and descriptions are the first elements observed by users and that can be vital in convincing them to watch the video or not. We should consider that they will be shared by people who are very far from us within the networking. A screenshot can be decisive for the widespread of contents
  46. Get ready for daily work #5 Think of scoopsIn 2008 President Obama communicated the name of his vice president candidate to his newsletter subscribers via sms. The news was sent to the press only afterwards. He did so in order to make his community feel part of his political and life process. We should embrace the following principle: although the relation with traditional media is crucial, it is the people who have to take action to collect votes and therefore it is them who are our target audience. Our choice of the contents to circulate on social media should favour all that can be shared first with users and afterwards with the press. Top politicians should insist more on this aspect, mainly to steer and adjust relations
  47. Get ready for daily work #6 Allow new and older media to communicateAll the politicians’ speeches on traditional media must become web contents. If there is a TV appearance, this should be turned into a Youtube video; if there is a radio talk, this audio contribution should be uploaded and shared. In social media there is no waste material. Transition from old to new media only requires editorial work. The opposite transition, much more fascinating, is becoming the standard. Very often local media yearn for stories to tell. Furthermore, social media allow to test video contents before they become “official”. If the best video produced during a campaign (in terms of viewing and feedback) was created by a user, why cannot it become official?
  48. Get ready for daily work #7 Address “niches”A virtual community supporting a political figure is made up of various experiences and tiny niches of public. We can nearly simultaneously address environmentalists, architects, city centre dwellers, traders, sports people, gays, friends of the politician, friends of his opponents’ (just to give some examples). For this reason, an effort should be made to take the opportunity to say something to each of these groups, according to a specific request or a topical issue. Feedback management is the key to communication success on social media. Giving everybody feedback means paying attention to everybody’s interests and be trustworthy as a political figure
  49. Get ready for daily work #8 Communicate when people are thereA brilliant status update is lost if published in the dead of night because nobody is online to share it in real time and create a snowball effectThis is the reason why a daily schedule should be made out covering the contents to be shared: it would allow to manage all the material and to publish the best contents when the potential public is most responsive
  50. Get ready for daily work #9 Be flexible about timing in critical momentsIf some content causes criticism and controversy, it may be acceptable to propose some different “food for thought” (without waiting for the scheduled publication timing) which could distract fanpage fans and push them into positive action again. This rule can be applied in reverse when a communicative item has been particularly successful. If an update excites supporters, it is worth highlighting it for as longer time, unless there is the need to upload many more fresh contents. If there is an event to follow live, timing cannot be adhered to. It is paramount to give fast updates and say the essential things
  51. To concludeFive good ideas for those who comunicate on social media
  52. Good idea #1 Tell the truth.(this is enough, you could do without the other four things)
  53. Good idea #2Always remember thatwhatever you do on the web is public. (This is true also for those profiles with high privacyrestrictions. Say only the things you would be willing to repeat in front of an audience of strangers)
  54. Good idea #3 Don’t think thatcommunication strategiesare more important than contents.( A stupid thing is a stupid thing: there can be no possible rhetoric, stylistic or communication device)
  55. Good idea #4Don’t talk only about yourself. (Whoever uses the first person singular, in the end bores the listener)
  56. Good idea #5 Don’t waste money on advertisement campaignsif you don’t have anything to say. (There’s no point in attracting users to places where there is nothing interesting. They will flee away, maybestimulating a negative word-of-mouth. If you have money to spend, use it for writing, not for communication.)
  57. To sum upSocial media will never win a campaign. A campaign cannot win without social media. (Beth Becker)
  58. A great hug Merci! Dino Amenduni Social media bio: (here you can find this slideshow) Proforma Site: Facebook: Twitter: Youtube: