Why social media is important for the Green Party of Canada

I won’t write a blog post listing “Top 10 …” whatever reasons and advises, let me just focus on a single event that happened today. It was in the news since this morning, that the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May is not invited to participate in the TV debate of the leaders.

While at first this seems to be a fatal blow to a political campaign, not all is lost. We’re in 2011 and social media can still save the day, especially if it’s used in wisely. Let’s see how the Green Party is doing on the different social media platforms.


Although the press likes to talk more about Facebook and Twitter followers, at the end of the day it’s still the blog that is the corner stone of any social media campaign. On the Green Party website there is a section used for the blog, so there they have plus one (+1) from me. It’s not given though enough emphasis on the website. A website that is heavy on text and tight on images, let’s take for example the page presenting the message of the leader: at 579 words, it’s quite a long text. Would there have been a video with the same message, it would have been more digestible by people who are lazy to, or can’t read. (-1)

The blog gives me the feeling that I truly read her personal opinion, which is great (+1), but she could have taken this further with spicing up the posts with photos and videos (-1). Commenting on the posts is a complete failure. Anyone wanting to comment has to first register, accept a lengthy terms and condition text, go trough a Captcha (which is not accessible for visually impaired) and only than the comment can be posted. (-5)  The result is that there are really few comments on the posts. Would they have used a more open concept, without putting up all these barriers, commenting would have been much more fun. If they are afraid of trolls, well, there are other methods to fight them, they could have been using the Facebook username and password for comments, or less intrusive tools, such as Akismet.


I had to search a bit around to find the right page. First I was looking for the Green Party of Canada, page that exist, but seems to be neglected; all it has it’s some text copy-pasted from Wikipedia. Then I was looking for Elizabeth May, here I finally found a page that has more up to date stuff (+1), with more than 8000 fans (+1). Here is another tip I would give to the person in charge of this page: Facebook pages that have more than 25 fans can have a clean URL, meaning that instead of http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elizabeth-May/20647428344 they could have changed the URL to http://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-May. Again it’s a small detail, but it can make a big difference, when it comes to printing the address on promotional materials. Until this is fixed, I have to give a minus one (-1). What is interesting to notice, the Facebook page, unlike the blog, is open and it’s thriving (+5).


She’s using two Twitter accounts, @ElizabethMay for her English tweets (812 Tweets | 4,232 Following | 15,332 Followers | 1,129 Listed) and @MayElizabeth for the French tweets (166 Tweets | 268 Following | 322 Followers | 41 Listed). While on the English account there is a lot of interaction and dialog going on (+1), the French account is purely a broadcasting tool (-1), I’m not sure about its value as a separate account.


Quite surprising, they actually have a YouTube channel (+1)! After visiting their website, I have a hard time believing there is a Green Party YouTube channel, but I could not find one video on their website (-1). Comments are open, but not too many views, no surprise if they keep this channel secret. Why there is no video section on the Facebook page (-1)?


I don’t want to comment if the Broadcast Consortium did the right thing, or they just shot themselves in their foot. It remains to see how the Green Party will be able to capitalize on all the buzz created by this news.

As the other Canadian political parties, they have a social media presence too, with some of their platforms more active than the others. What is missing, is a bit more creativity in using all these channels together. Mashups are not just fun ways of spicing up websites, but they are also important in sending out a strong message. Now it might be too late, the campaign has already started and social media is a long term investment.

Facebook comment plugin

Is the new Facebook comment plugin a game changer?

Facebook comment plugin

Facebook has created some waves this week when they announced their new plugin that enables users to leave comments on websites using their Facebook profile. TechCrunch not only jumped on the story, but they have also decided to give this new plugin a spin. The comments they got on their article are just as mixed, as my feelings about this new tool.


When you leave a comment on a website using this new plugin, you can decide to also post your comment on your wall, this way sharing the story and the comment with your friends. This is amazing news for smaller blogs that badly need more visibility, because just a single comment could potentially bring hundreds of clicks and the whole thing could go viral. I can see many websites jumping on this, especially once there will be an easy WordPress solution developed to just plug it in.

Promoting your blog will be harder

It is a basic rule of thumb for every blogger, that apart from writing their own blog to go and comment on other blogs. Some specialists even come up with magic formulas, about what the proportion should be between commenting and writing blog posts. The idea behind this was that if you would leave a smart comment on another blog, preferably in your own niche, than you could raise the interest of others to come and visit your blog, by clicking your name. Now, with this new plugin, your name is actually linking to your Facebook profile and not your blog.

The work around this would be to have a Facebook page created for your website and use that to leave comments. Suddenly my AdamSofineti.com Facebook page starts to make a lot more sense.


Often comments add a lot of value to a post, they bring a new perspective, add more pertinent information, while adding a bunch of yummy key-words for Google to chew on.

The impact this new plugin will have on SEO, is hard to predict, but clearly it is a risk that if I would be a huge website, I’m not sure I would take.

Civilizing effect

A friend of mine (website in Romanian), who is a popular blogger in Romania wrote a post about censoring comments. His blog was blessed with a troll, who was leaving really nasty comments, some of them being plain swearing, addressed at the members of his family. Of course he would delete the offensive messages, after all it’s his blog and he can decide about where is the limit that a commenter can’t pass.

I wonder, if would have he had access to use the Facebook commenting plugin, if that would had avoided the problem he run into?

Trolls are everywhere and behave the same way, no matter the language, they hide behind an anonymous username, with a picture that has nothing to do with them and spill their poison, because they have no better way of dealing with their person issues.

With this plugin it’s harder to have anonymity; commenters have to use their real name or information that could easily be traced back to them. Spamming and trolling blogs that use this plugin will be a lot harder.

It’s far from being a finished product

I left a couple of comments on the TechCrunch story, but they are buried somewhere among the more than 1300 comments. There is no way find them and see reactions to my comment.

It’s also missing the functionality to subscribe to the answers by email or RSS.

You like or you hate Facebook, you have to deal with the idea that they are big, very big and if you want to tap into the advantages their 600+ million users can bring to you, than you have to learn to compromise, in this case by giving up the ownership of your comments.

I tried to present here some of the advantages and disadvantages this commenting plugin would bring. Is it really a game changer or not, well, you tell me. Will you use it on your blog/website? Will you leave comments on websites that use it?

Social Media 101 for freelancers

The Montreal branch of PWAC, that stand for Professional Writers Association of Canada, have organized a panel yesterday about social media. It was mainly intended to explain basic concept about how social media can help a freelance writer in growing his business.

There were four presenters, some of who I follow since quite some time on Twitter and I knew it will be an interesting discussion. Since the audience was composed of just a handful of people, it was a very intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Ideas were bouncing back and forth, let me paraphrase a few:

1. Online presence gives credibility

These days people look for information online. Small businesses, that are often one man shows neglect this aspect of their presence and are loosing big time because of this. For a potential customer that is looking for freelance writer, the writer with a website showcasing writing samples, case studies, etc., will have more credibility than another one, who is nowhere to be found.

2. Build up an interested audience

Social media is free as it doesn’t cost you money, it is trans-global and it travels trough time, but it requires a certain level of dedication to build up an audience.

Let’s say you struck a gold mine, a genius idea, something you want the whole World to know. Well, you can post it on you blog, share the link to your blog post on Twitter and Facebook and maybe people will listen.

For this scenario, you need to have ready an interested audience, ready to take on and spread your message. If you just go and tell your 20 or 30 friends about your idea, there are good chances it will be a still born baby.

3. Bringing traffic to your blog

It’s hard to get people to subscribe to your RSS feed, but once you get them you know they are really interested in what you have to say. These are your most valuable and most intimate followers.

It’s a lot easier to have followers on Twitter, so you have to work on funneling your followers from Twitter towards your blog.

I would just add to this, that you should avoid using Twitter as a platform to only post links to your blog. You should interact with people and the links to your blog should be just a fraction of that interaction.

4. Tools you use does matter

Some of the presenters were saying that it doesn’t matter what platform you use to write your blog, be that Tumblr, or WordPress.com, or a self hosted blog. The important thing is to have an online presence.

Here I have to disagree, especially from a business perspective where you have to think long term. If you build up a certain reputation using Tumblr, but you business takes you to a different level where you outgrow what Tumblr can offer, you are either accepting the limitations or you move. Both of this will have a negative impact on your growth.

For a small business, I think it’s not a big investment, to buy a domain name and go with a shared hosting to host their website/blog. Some people might find it intimidating this, but it’s not rocket science and there are plenty of hosting companies that are happy to help with setting up a first blog.

Would that website become insanely popular? It will be a lot more easier to upgrade the server or the platform, than moving the website to a different domain name.

5. My message to writers

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter are all communication mediums that are heavy on text. You are writers, you live and breathe text, it’s the thing you’re the best at! What an amazing position to be!

You see it everywhere, the majority of people don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to tell a story… For you it should be so easy to stand out and create signal versus noise, people are hungry for good quality information and you are in an excellent position to deliver it.

The presenters

Would you like to learn more about social media, why not go to the source:

AdamSofineti.com on Facebook

Why an AdamSofineti.com Facebook page?

AdamSofineti.com on Facebook

I usually see people creating official Facebook pages, when they reach the limit of friends they can have (5000 on a personal account). It makes sense, the average FB user will never get to that number and I’m not expecting in the near future neither to reach that limit. Why have than a separate Facebook page for this website?

The main reason I did it, is the widget you can see in the left hand, under the Categories section. On my personal account the privacy settings are set in a way to let only my friends have access to my info. This is because I want to keep my Facebook account open only to my friends, in most of the cases people I know personally and in some cases people I would love to meet in person. Adding a “Like” widget would have meant that I have to change my privacy settings and go public, something I refuse to do.

The other option was to create an AdamSofineti.com Facebook page that is public. I changed the syndication settings in my NetworkedBlogs account to feed my blog post from now on to the AdamSofineti.com FB page, so that I won’t spam anyone with my posts showing up twice on their wall.

The noxiousness of technology

I stumbled upon an interview with Douglas Rushkoff, a media thinker, who also writes about contemporary Judaism. Here is an excerpt that I find interesting:

Is increased reliance on new technology coming at the cost of spirituality?

Well, the rabbis promoting the oral tradition asked this about the written law, right? New mediating technologies always cost us our intimacy and direct social contact. The less Judaism is about being in a room or under a tent together, the less real it becomes. It’s not that technology costs us spirituality. It’s that the misuse of technology compromises the spiritual components of real life.

This question pops-up everyday and there is always someone to forecast the end of civilization because of the new technologies. Nothing new under the Sun, as Rushkoff points it out, writing has diminished the importance of oral tradition. Since the early forms of writing, someone could sit down and read on his own, get informed, without the need of another human presence. Information could be transfered more easily and more accurately. With the appearance of the printing press, information became cheaper and more accessible. Renaissance and Reformation are all direct results of this technological invention.

Later comes the telegraph, the telephone, Radio, TV, etc. and now we get to use the Internet under its many forms. Social media is among the preferred targets of the naysayers, this week it was the turn of Montreal journalist Pierre Foglia with Expliquez-moi ce rien to express his dislike of Twitter. He complains about the low value of messages that float around the twittersphere, naming the tweets of a humorist, an MP and francophone singer. I won’t try to reply to him here, it was already very well done by the grand dame of Quebec social media, Michelle Blanc on her blog.

My first reaction was, why on Earth someone thinks it’s cool not to get what social media is all about. Than on a second thought, especially after reading some of the comments on Michelle Blanc response, I came to the conclusion that it’s maybe a question of generations. Maybe older people miss those social interactions that were the norm at the time when they were young and now maybe because of the technology, or maybe because of their age, they become more isolated. This gave me the idea of thinking of tools specially built for seniors to initiate them in the usage of social media. There are many seniors who are already present and active on Facebook or Twitter, but for the rest a properly built tutorial would be helpful.

How should this tutorial be built? Should it be a PowerPoit, a PDF or a YouTube video?

Facebook and Twitter search sucks

What I hope 2011 would bring in Social Media

Facebook and Twitter search sucks
I find it really unfortunate that Google missed out on Buzz, although this time it’s less of a failure that Wave was at the time. Buzz is not working, because the social aspect is not evident, you won’t find your friends on it, unless they are geeks and connecting with strangers is not as straight forward as with Twitter. Undoubtedly Google’s strong point is search, no other company is as accurate and as fast in running queries as Google. While Facebook and Twitter are flourishing and don’t seem to slow down in their expansion, they just don’t seem to know how to fix their search.

I really hope 2011 will be the year when all these companies will finally recognize that they are good at some things and for some other things they better let the other do it. There were already some steps taken by Facebook in this direction, when they teamed up with Bing, but there is plenty of work to be sorted out.

Here is my list of search related features I hope they would have:

  • Twitter – first task, sort out that search for once! What do you mean, I can’t search tweets from last week?
  • Twitter – once the simple things are working, let’s start having some fun features, such as searching someone else’s timeline, or searching by date.
  • Facebook – it would be nice to finally have a News Feed search. Sometimes I know of a link or a video I saw someone posted about a month ago, well, finding that is not an easy task for me and I’m not that popular. If I would have thousands of friends, it would be an unimaginable task to perform.

Being able to search our archive of posts on these websites, would make the whole social network experience more meaningful. We’re just shouting, but when we need a relevant information, we need to turn to good “old” Google.

What do you hope 2011 will bring in Social Media?

How undergraduate students use the Web

The Nielsen Norman Group has released a new study yesterday, that is taking a look at how college students (18 to 24) use the Web. Some of the results are confirming my expectations: social network websites are not everything when it comes to the Web. Here are the main points of the findings:

  • Students are not necessarily technology experts – they are less intimidated by technology than older folks, but assuming that they know everything and they are willing to try out anything is wishful thinking. Interfaces that look intimidating, are usually ignored for fear of wasting time.
  • Multimedia should be used cautiously – Websites that play music or a flashing animation after load are considered to be of low quality.
  • Simple interfaces are preferred – here’s a quot that summarizes well this point: “stick to simplicity in design, but not be old-fashioned. Clear menus, not too many flashy or moving things because it can be quite confusing.”
  • They use social networks, but it’s not everything – most of them tend to keep one or two tabs open with a social network website, but when it comes to finding more detailed and accurate information, they will turn to search engines.
  • Reading – Long walls of text are intimidating, they prefer pages that are easy to scan. Many of them have trouble following a text with long paragraphs and complicated sentences.
  • Age-appropriate content – The younger the age group of your audience, the more important it is to better target the content and the interface. When it comes to students, of course this task is easier than with 7-year-olds. Still the results of the study advise having a special section of your website if you want to appeal to this age group. For example if a company would be interested to attract interns or graduates, they should not write the job description the same way as they would for others.
  • Students have a an eye for ads – they are fast to spot an advertorial, not easy to be fooled with cheap tricks.

The study claims that there are no international differences, something that I have a hard time believing. It was conducted in North America, Europe and Australia, well, there is more to the World than that and especially when it comes to UI design, culture can have a big impact on the perception of a website. Another thing I missed from this study is the lack of mentioning of the Mobile Web. With all the smartphones and tablets would have been interesting to find out about their use by this age group.

The other day I was reading Google and the Rise of Facebook, by Brian Solis. He is seeing Facebook as the dominant presence on the Web, dethroning Google. He gives numbers and statistics of time spent on Social Network websites to support his argument. At the time I was uncomfortable with his argument, but now with these results from the Neilsen Norman study, I know what was the weak point in Brian Solis’s theory. The time spent on social networks is irrelevant, because the users might keep a tab open with Facebook all day long, or might be 24/7 connected trough a smart phone. The same way I could claim that we’re always on Google because our default search engine in our browsers is set to Google.

The way how Social Networks are used, or the purpose they are used for, is more important than how many people spend how much time on them.