The Massachusetts House of Representatives’ Paucity of Socialness

“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” – Seth Godin, Best Selling Author

There is a paucity of socialness among the Members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  In an era when everybody seems to be on-line, talking to each other, and building their influence, the members of the House by and large seem to be letting opportunity slip through their fingers.  

A social media survey, of Facebook, Twitter, and Klout, was conducted, by this author, on 2/24 and 2/25/2012, the raw data of which can be downloaded in this excel document. Of the 158 current members of the House of Representatives 78, or a little less than half, have a Facebook fan page.  The number of Representatives on Twitter is even worse with 51 representatives, or less than a third having an account.  The number of Representatives with both a fan page and a Twitter account is even smaller still, at 35.  

On any given day the news media engages itself and looks for stories via Twitter.  In Massachusetts politics that is most often done in the virtual chat room known as the #mapoli hash-tag.  With that knowledge one would expect the leaders of both parties in the House to be actively engaging both the press and citizens via social media channels.  For both parties they are lumped in with those who have little to no social media presence.

Both the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader, lack both a Facebook Fan Page, and twitter account.  The Majority leader of the House, Ronald Mariano, does have both means of communication, and is actively using them.  Brad Jones’top lieutenant, George Peterson, has a Facebook Fan Page, but no twitter presence.  In addition, neither caucus has a fan page or Twitter account to get their message out.

Only Facebook Fan Pages were counted in this survey, member’s personal Facebook profiles were not.  Reliance on a personal profile creates a barrier between the audience you are trying to reach, your constituents, and yourself.  By requiring a Representative to affirmatively accept a friend request, a personal page creates a lag time to when a constituent can get information from a Representative.  In addition, personal pages do not have the ability to embed forms for data collection and donations.  Better than nothing, they are not the best means of communication, in the medium, and were not included.

78 members of the House of Representatives have Facebook Fan pages, with 21 Republicans and 57 Democrats having them.  The Republican Party has much larger percentage of their caucus with fan pages, at close to 2/3.  This percentage advantage doesn’t necessarily mean that Republicans are beating the Democrats in the effective use of them.

The Democrats with pages have a larger community following them.  The median number of “likes” for all members, with pages, was 405.  The Democrats best their Republican counterparts with a median number of 433 “likes”, where the Republicans have 366.  When average likes are counted, the Democratic advantage holds at 540 to 402 advantage. The average number of “likes” for all members is 503.  It is clear that Republicans need to do a much better job of asking for Facebook fans.  

Having a Fan page doesn’t necessarily mean you are active with it.  Some Representatives merely have a place holder, or only seem to use the page during campaign season, and not as an ongoing tool of engagement.  Members who use their Facebook page only during campaigns are missing a very important way in which to communicate with their constituents.  Of the 78 fan pages, 57 have current content, posted in February of this year.  Another three pages have content posted last in January.  Surprisingly 36%, or 18, of the pages have not been updated in 2012 at all. Even more surprisingly is that 12 Representatives have not updated their pages since September of 2011 or earlier.  Representative Robert Fennel has apparently never updated his page, there is no point in having a page if you don’t update it.  

Representatives are also using their pages in different ways.  Some have adopted aggressive strategies with fundraising tabs, and data collection available on the page.  Others simply use it as a way of sharing news.  The largest mistake many representatives make is shutting down their wall.  That is not allowing others to post.  Facebook allows you to primarily show your posts, with all others showing up in another tab.  Using that feature to ensure your message is seen first is one thing, not allowing others to post is something else entirely.  Social media is about engaging with your community.  It is just as important to listen, by shutting down your wall you are missing half of the conversation. You can’t listen if you’ve pressed the other side’s mute button.  If you are a representative who has shut down your wall, open it immediately, you’ll be surprised at how the place livens up.

Up next Twitter after the fold.

The largest communications mistake 2/3 of the members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are making is not engaging on Twitter.  At first the use of Twitter may seem daunting but used correctly your voice, and your ideas can be significantly amplified beyond your immediate network.  The vast majority of Representatives on Twitter have seemingly not yet figured it out.  More on that later.

Like with Facebook, the Republican members have a much larger, percentage-wise, Twitter presence.  Over half of the Republican caucus are on Twitter, with almost 3/4 of Democrats choosing not to participate in the conversation.  

Of those Representatives on Twitter Democrats have a much larger network of followers on average.  The median number of followers for members is 176.  The GOP lags behind both the total membership and their Democratic counterparts.  GOP members on twitter have a 148 median number of followers to the Democrats 203.5.  The average number of followers is 326 for the group as a whole and 229 to 375 for the GOP and Democrats respectively.  

The average number of followers fails to paint a full picture.  A comparison of the median number of tweets to the average number of tweets shows that a greater percentage of Republican Representatives are actively engaged on twitter. While the average number of tweets per member is relatively consistent at around 330 for all three groups, their is a clear GOP advantage in the median number of tweets.  Democrats have a higher number of power users of Twitter which is reflected in their low median number of tweets at 88, versus the GOP’s 247.  This means that the GOP as a group is more active.

To study the effectiveness of each member on Twitter, a Klout analysis was performed.  Klout.com is a site which measures the effectiveness of one’s social media presence.  The scale is somewhat logarithmic.  It is easier to get from 10, the base score, to 40 than it is to get from 50 to 80.  According to Klout, a score of 50 puts that user in the 95th percentile of all social media users. As an aside, this writer’s Klout score is 56. Klout allows you to link your Facebook activity as well.  None of the Representatives has done this, nor have they created a Klout account.

Klout scores were available for 38 of the 51 Representatives on Twitter.  This means that 13 of the Representatives on twitter do not have currently active twitter accounts.  On this metric the effectiveness advantage of Republicans hinted at above, is more concretely demonstrated here.   30% of the Democratic members on Twitter are not active enough to be rated, while only 17% of Republicans fall into that category.

Having a level of activity to be rated by Klout, does not necessarily mean that you will be rated as effective.  The members, of both parties, who are rated by and large are not considered effective by Klout.  Klout measures multiple metrics.  The four metrics analyzed for the purposes of this study were:

  • the Klout score explained above,
  • the number of times a Twitter user has been retweeted over the past 90 days,
  • the number of times a Twitter user has been mentioned by others over the past 90 days, and
  • the True Reach a member has.  True reach is the number of users, both within a users own network and a users followers network, that routinely see their content.

    Again the Democrats hold an advantage over Republicans in Klout score, though not as different as the follower numbers would suggest.  All members rated have a Klout score on average of  21.1, with GOP members at 19.5, and Democrats at 19.5.  All of these numbers are pretty abysmal.  On average our legislators are tweeting into the wilderness, and not being heard.  This primarily has to do with the lack of hashtag usage amongst Representatives.  Hashtags like #mapoli, are used to categorize tweets.  

    Using tools like TweetDeck or Hootsuite, Twitter users can open up virtual chat rooms around those hashtags.  If you aren’t using a hashtag, your tweets are being lost into the wilderness  Only your followers have the potential to see them.  Your chances for amplification are virtually non-existent if you don’t use hashtags.  This will become readily apparent as we delve deeper into the Klout metrics.

    The number of retweets over the past 90 days of the members rated by Klout shows there are two tiers of twitter users in both parties.  Those that are very active, and those that are not.  The median number of times that all members, rated by Klout, have been retweeted is 18.5, the GOP and Democratic numbers are 18.5 and 40.5 respectively.  The average numbers are 96.2 or about once per day for the whole group.  Republicans are retweeted signficantly less at 80.2 or less than once a day. Democrats were retweeted more times at 106, or about 1.2 times per day.  

    The number of times Representatives, rated by Klout, have been mentioned on Twitter is 62.7 on average.  The GOP is slightly better at getting mentioned at 67 times on average in the last 90 days to the Democrats 60 times.  For public officials this level of engagement is poor, it is reflected in the True Reach numbers shown below.

    The Klout True Reach metric shows that the vast majority of Representatives, rated by Klout, on Twitter do a poor job of penetrating their network.  The average Representative, rated by Klout, only reaches 23% of their followers, never mind being amplified.  None of the representatives reach more people than their number of followers.  The average true reach of all Representatives is 97.39 people, Democrats do slightly better than the GOP with 100 people versus the GOP’s 93.5.  The lack of focused, hashtag containing tweets about newsworthy subjects has led to these abysmal numbers.

    To illustrate how amplification works effectively, let’s look at the Klout metrics of the satirical twitter account @SnitchingSal.  The account was created by its author in the beginning of February as a satirical take on the thoughts of Sal Dimasi as he traveled to New England.  Within two days of the account’s creation it had a True Reach of over 200 people, which has since gone down due to lack of activity.  The True Reach showed an amplification factor of about six.  That is six times more people saw the accounts content than the number of people following it.  

    The success of this account had in creating amplification is directly related to the use of hashtags, especially the #mapoli one, and its targeted, albeit satirical, message. Because of the amplification the account enjoys a Klout score of 38, almost twice the average Klout of a rated member of the Massachusetts House.  

    Some of the Members of the House are almost social media ninjas.  Those members make up our All-Star team.  The top five members in the categories of Facebook “likes”, Twitter Followers, and Klout scores can be seen below.

    The Facebook All-Star Team is led by Nick Collins with 2,486 likes, then Sean Garballey with 2,309 likes, Ryan Fattman, the lone Republican, with 1,492 likes, and rounded out by Aaron Michlewitz, and Linda Dorcena-Forry each with a little over 1300 likes.  

    The Twitter All-Star team is led by Carlos Henriquez with 1,273 followers, followed by Dan Winslow with 1,065 followers.  Next up is Marty Walsh at 1,014 followers and the list is rounded out by repeat team member Linda Dorcena-Forry and Jen Benson with 939, and 922 followers repsectively.

    The final All-Star team is the Klout All-Stars.  With only three of the Twitter All-Stars on the Klout team, it shows that the number of followers you have, doesn’t necessarily translate to increased effectiveness.  The team is led by Repubican Dan Winslow who has a Klout score of 45, followed by Carlos Henriquez at 44.  There is a three way tie for third place with Jen Benson, Aaron Michlewitz, and Ed Coppinger each with a Klout score of 36.  

    Henriquez, and Winslow’s scores are representative of their activity on Twitter. Carlos was retweeted 1300 times in the last 90 days an average of over 14 times a day.  Winslow was retweeted 728 times or an average of 8 times per day.  The next closest member was Linda Dorcena-Forry with 208.  Henriquez and Winslow also lead the way in mentions with 823 and 702 respectively. The next highest member total was 85.  

    There is a very low use of social media amongst the members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  In addition those that use the tools, are by and large still trying to figure them out.  With truly only two Representatives having an effective voice on Twitter, the bi-partisan team of Carlos Henriquez and Dan Winslow.  

    The road ahead.  

    All is not lost for the other members of the House however.  A few changes in the ways they use social media can reap large rewards.  Here are some suggestions to get them started.

  • First, use hashtags in your tweets.  #mapoli if you are talking about political topics of interest to all of Massachusetts.  Consider starting the hashtag of #mahouse to create a chat room of your fellow members that other interested parties can join in.  When talking about your towns use their hashtag as well, i.e. #lowell #marlborough.  If your voice shows up where people are already listening, you’ll get more traction.
  • Second, publicize your social media accounts.  A link to your Facebook page and Twitter handle should be on all communications that are legally able to have it.  Your email signature for your personal and campaign accounts should have links to these.  Your printed materials should as well.  Cross promote, let your Facebook fans know where to find you on Twitter and vice versa.
  • Third, use RSS to publish content you create elsewhere to these streams.  If you are publishing a blog, AND YOU SHOULD, use the RSS feed to automatically share that content on your wall and through twitter.  It will do wonders for your traffic.  This blog can attest to that.
  • Fourth, if you have protected your wall from posts by your constituents, “Mr. (or Ms.) Representative TEAR DOWN THAT WALL”.  You are missing out on the most important part of social media listening.  
  • Finally treat your social media accounts like you would your phone or email.  Get back to those that mention you on Twitter or post on your wall.  It is surprisingly easier to get Comcast to help you with a problem by tweeting to @comcastcares than by calling them directly.  

    Next up in this series will be the Massachusetts State Senate, followed up by the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, Local Politicians, and the vast pundit and blogging class.  Please feel free to add your voice to the comments.  

  • About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno