Best Practices for Your Political Facebook Page

by Chris Forbes

There are two ways to keep yourself from ever having too much faith in humanity. One, going into politics and two, logging on to Facebook.

People often complain that Facebook is a vast wasteland of shallow narcissistic people. But that’s what first attracted me to it…I guess they had me at shallow. Isn’t the planet a vast wasteland of such people anyway?

Seriously, I first joined Facebook for the same reason everyone else does, I’m a parent with a need to stalk my kids. Which, I think, is the same reason politicians should join — for stalking people. What I mean is so they can learn more about the needs of the people in their districts and stay in touch. Besides Facebook being great tool for constituent research and public relations, it can also help you mobilize your most ardent supporters to be your advocates.

Today’s voters assume they will be able to find and access you on Facebook; you really don’t have much of a choice these days. If you are not available on Facebook, another politician will be happy to log-on instead of you. So, stop dragging your mouse — if you are not on Facebook, it’s time to come out of your underground privacy bunker and sign up.

Begin by discerning how Facebook fits into your campaign and official communication strategies. Each level and place of public office has rules of engagement, some written and some unwritten. Also, make sure you know the ethical rules, campaign regulations, and legal issues associated with using social media. Take time to do due diligence. Thinking ahead will help you develop a strategy for using social media.

Hang out with 5,000 of your closest friends!

Some candidates separate their personal Facebook account from their public political page. Their personal page is a closed private account that only a few close friends and family use to connect. They maintain a separate campaign (and sometimes even a third, a separate official) account. Other candidates blur the lines between their personal and official use of social media. It’s up to you. Keep in mind, though, that when you are online nothing is really private. Ask your local shirtless politician for details.

Personal profile Facebook pages limit you to a mere 5,000 friends. How can you, a political social media butterfly, limit yourself to just your 5,000 closest friends? Pages, on the other hand, can have an unlimited number of “Likes.” And who doesn’t like to be liked a lot?

A good practice is to create a Facebook page. Go to http://www.facebook.com/about/pages and follow the directions; it’s simple and you can have a page up and running in no time. Carefully name your page so you can use it in other campaigns. For example, beware of dating your campaign page URL something like, “Facebook.com/Smith4Congress2012” That won’t help you much in the presidential election in 2020. Facebook will only let you change your page username once, so pick a name that can be useful for your entire political career.

Ask your doctor if moderation is right for you.

If your Facebook page is gaining many likes, it won’t be long until you realize your need for community management. You will need to moderate your page. Not all your “fans” will like moderation, but do it anyway. It’s not denying “freedom of speech” if you block people from your page. You are not on Facebook to create a forum for your opposition. If you don’t moderate, your real supporters will avoid coming to your page. Who wants to be a victim of a partisan attack from people who will never really listen to reason anyway? If the opposition needs to talk to you, they can contact you using official channels.

When to moderate your page:

  • When you want to keep abusive, rude, or foul people at bay.
  • People are making false accusations about you. Shocking, I know!
  • A page member is excessively posting or commenting. People who post multiple, long screeds on your Facebook wall really need to get a blog of their own–sheesh!
  • People are campaigning for your opposition. Let them buy an ad!
  • Other reasons. For example, an organized attack on your page led by a lobby.

10 Best Practices for Your Political Facebook Page

  1. Don’t give your Facebook account to an intern or staff person to manage; stay involved. You need to learn from your community. Facebook helps you stay in touch. Read the comments on your wall; respond to questions; click like on stuff. Stay plugged-in!
  2. Brand your Facebook presence to your other content with a profile picture and cover image. Coordinate what you do on Facebook with your other media, website, videos, blogs, Twitter, etc.
  3. Update during peak usage times. People check Facebook most in the morning, while they are having lunch, and at night while watching Dancing with the Stars. Time your posts to go on your page when the most eyes are watching live.
  4. Post a variety of content. Try news, links, pictures, quotes, videos, questions, interaction, etc. Make it fun, too. All work and no play feels like a subcommittee assignment!
  5. Learn from stats. Your Facebook stats can tell you the best times to post. What types of posts are most popular. What are the demographics of your “fans,” and much more! Study the data and use what you learn.
  6. Go viral! Stuff that is shared a lot by others is viral. Keep an eye out for images, articles, videos, and things other people are sharing frequently. If it’s appropriate for you, share something that’s going viral and ride the wave with it.
  7. Make your own viral content. Why not create your own? Produce original videos, banners with cool sayings and quotes, pictures of cats…things people like to share, etc.
  8. Monitor your opposition. Your competition may be playing their hand online by posting details of what they are doing on their page. Keep a constant eye on their page. Conversely, don’t give away your strategy online. Be a savvy tactician, especially in an election year.
  9. Beware when you post your public location. When out at public events, keep security in mind. Post about your location with caution, knowing there could be people with bad intentions reading your postings. One strategy is to post as you are leaving an event.
  10. Have admins and moderators help you. You can recruit other people to moderate and post for you, so you don’t have to constantly look at your page. Be careful to “keep it real,” though. Have them help you, but not do everything. People who know you can tell when it’s not really your voice.

Now that you are on Facebook, try some advertising. More about ads in a future post!

Chris Forbes (ChrisForbes.org) is a frustrated ex-comic, Indie Film Marketer, & Co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits.” As an Oklahoma-based social media strategist he has been leading political social media campaigns since 2009. Follow @cforbesoklahoma on Twitter.