Social Media and Ask Premier Ed

Yesterday CBC Edmonton’s John Archer called to get my take on the “Ask Premier Ed” campaign, Premier Ed Stelmach’s latest foray into the world of social media (as you know I don’t like to be called a social media expert, there’s no such thing). The premier has had a Twitter account for a little over a year now, but it has always been used to broadcast messages, never to interact with Albertans (in Twitter-speak, that means @PremierStelmach doesn’t post replies). The idea with the “Ask Premier Ed” campaign was to get Albertans to post questions on Twitter or on the premier’s website. I thought the idea had potential, but unfortunately, I don’t think it has turned out as well as it could have. It certainly hasn’t changed the premier’s broadcast-style communication (see DJ’s great overview of Stelmach’s communication issues).

Over the last couple of weeks, many Albertans have submitted questions. Yesterday, Premier Stelmach started posting responses. He’s doing that using YouTube videos. In each video, the premier is seated behind his desk with a laptop (and a bunch of other interesting things visible). He gets a question from the laptop, then answers it unscripted (of course the questions are probably prescreened).

Is “Ask Premier Ed” social media? I would say no. The campaign uses Twitter to crowdsource questions, and YouTube to host video responses to some of those questions, but that’s it. Social media is about more than just having an account. It’s about people, and about the interactions between people. How do you have interactions? On Twitter there are replies. On YouTube there are comments and video responses. People use those mechanisms to have a conversation, to have a dialogue. That’s what’s missing from “Ask Premier Ed”.

Here’s what I told CBC:

"If people are asking questions on Twitter, for instance, I might ask the question and then you might respond to it and somebody else might chime in and there’s a bit of a dialogue going on around the question," Male said.

"That’s the kind of thing that would be great for the premier to be participating in …and that’s what’s missing here."

The funniest part of the article is this:

Stelmach spokesperson Tom Olsen said the video responses are a lot like having a conversation with Stelmach in a coffee shop.

Like having a conversation in a coffee shop? Really?

A couple of suggestions for Premier Stelmach and his team:

  • Answer questions as they come in, on Twitter! Make use of that reply function.
  • Some answers just can’t fit into 140 characters, I get that – post them on a blog! That way Albertans can continue discussing it in the comments and on their own blogs.
  • Instead of one ten minute video for a few questions, why not one short video per question and answer?
  • Why not display the question on screen as Premier Stelmach looks at his laptop? The video is pretty high quality – how hard could it be to add an overlay or two?

And don’t forget – as you start conversing with Albertans, rather than just broadcasting to them, use your human voice! We’re all humans, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that Premier Stelmach and his team have a Twitter account and are at least trying. That’s more than you can say for a lot of politicians. I just think they have room for improvement!

You can listen to a radio clip at CBC (link on the right) and look for the story on CBC Television tonight with Kim Trynacity at 5:30 and 6.

Also: Check out this post from DJ Kelly, posted on December 3rd. He’s way ahead of me!