For a couple of months now I've been wondering how useful Web 2.0 is to politicians. I tried to get some feedback from some of them (thank you Jon Snyder for answering), but with little luck. I'm guessing that asking specific questions as to their use of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube channels, etc., falls outside the realm of normal constituent inquiries. So I'm settling for something different. I'm comparing the Facebook pages of Washington state's congressional delegation. And just in time for the House Republican Caucus' "New Media Challenge" led by our own Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
The contest's goal is to encourage members to engage their constituents, while demonstrating that the GOP is "ahead of the majority" on the Internet, McMorris Rodgers' office told Hillicon Valley on Tuesday.
Being "ahead of the majority" on the Internet, whatever that means, hardly sounds like the best reason for using Web 2.0 technologies to communicate with constituents. I'd be interested in other questions. How do they use the feedback they get? How do they gauge the feedback? How much weight do they give it since the ease of creating an account and the ease of avoiding attribution can affect support for or against an issue? Do they check log files to see where the IP addresses come from or if the same addresses are used by multiple accounts? How many times is a video viewed? Those kind of things. Just because someone pumps out blurbs on Twitter, a blog, Facebook, MySpace, a video channel, etc., doesn't mean they're actually connecting with people.
Senator Patty Murray does not have a link to her Facebook page on her home page. Plus her Facebook info page lists her re-election site as her web site. Only she can post on her Facebook page but you can comment on her posts. In that manner, she initiates the conversation and you respond. It's not unusual to find 100+ comments and even more "likes" on her posts.
Senator Maria Cantwell does not have a link to her Facebook page on her home page. And her Facebook info page points to what seems to be more of a re-election web site. Senator Cantwell does things different from Senator Murray. She doesn't post anything on her Facebook page. Only her fans post. Consequently, you have lots of individual entries and not very many comments or "likes". In her case we have one way communication initiated by the constituents.
Congressman Jay Inslee, representing District 1, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His Facebook info page points to his congressional site. Just as Senator Cantwell does, Mr Inslee does not post on his page. His fans do.
Congressman Rick Larsen, representing District 2, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. He does not list a web site on his Facebook info page. And just like Cantwell and Inslee, he does not post anything but allows his fans to post as they please.
Congressman Brian Baird, representing District 3, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. He also does not list a web site on his info page. He does not post but allows his fans to.
Congressman Doc Hastings, representing District 4, does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site, his YouTube channel, and his LinkedIn page. And with him we find something different. Both he and his fans post on his Facebook page. There are rare comments on the posts initiated by fans. More so for those by Mr Hastings.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, representing District 5, has a link to and a feed from (bonus point!) her Facebook page on her home page. Her info page lists her congressional site, her Twitter page, and her YouTube channel. Both she and her fans post. Her posts generate quite a few comments. Those from her fans sometimes generate a number of comments but they consist mostly of "back and forth" between two or three people. Another bonus for Mrs McMorris Rodgers, I have seen her respond to a couple of comments. That indicates that someone is paying attention.
Congressman Norm Dicks, representing District 6, has a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site as his web page. The Congressman posts on his page along with his fans. His posts don't generate many comments. He may have locked up his page recently. Nobody else has posted anything since Jan 4, 2010. Plus, I can't figure out a way to comment on anything he has posted. I'm no facebook guru so I'm wondering if he cuts off comments for each post after a certain amount of time.
Congressman James McDermott, represents District 7 and does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. The home page he lists on his Facebook page is the one he uses for re-election. Mr McDermott does not post on his Facebook site. His fans do, but not since Feb 17 of this year. I am unable to post anything so it may be locked down.
Congressman Dave Reichert, representing District 8, does have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His info page lists his congressional site, his YouTube channel, his Twitter page, and his Flickr account. Both the congressman and his fans post on the site. Comments are few.
Last of all we have Congressman Adam Smith of District 9. He does not have a link to his Facebook page on his home page. His Facebook page lists itself (adamsmithforcongress) as his public profile. You have to be a confirmed friend to see or do anything. He has 886 friends. I'm still waiting for confirmation.
There you have it for what it's worth. Clearly, Hastings, McMorris Rodgers, and Reichert seem to make the most of their Facebook sites. Regardless, my questions for each of our delegates would be along these lines:
In this age where anyone can create multiple accounts, how do you know the feedback your getting is actually representative of your respective district? The same question could be posed about people calling by phone and sending emails, right? So how much weight do you give these forms of communication as opposed to a letter sent through the postal service?
So that's just something else I've been wondering about.