Six Lessons to Start Your Political/Government Online Community

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More and more campaigns and local governments are getting online (they get it!). Running an online community can be quite a challenge, but when done correctly it can be fun and a great way to reach your real community. This blog post is the devoted to the lessons I learned while creating and managing the Canton, New York Facebook community, so you can jump right in on your own online community

1. Avoid automation. Although linking RSS feeds and other tools to your page will save you time, they are a great way to bore your fans. Its similar to calling a company and wanting to speak to a real person and getting an automated system. Its easier for the company, but annoying for the consumer. Example, check out these two screen shots:

City X: Canton, New York:

City X: Online 7 months, 900 fans, population of 44,000

Canton, New York: Online 7 months, 2,956 fans, population of 6,000

2. Make sure the content is engaging, ask lots of questions. Include a question of the day (it was everything from “what is your favorite thing about Canton?” to “should there be a gas station in the historic part of main street?”) Don’t be afraid to touch the hot button topics, for those are the ones that people want to talk about. The more people talk, the greater your message will spread virally. For a great example, of how to engage your fans and more advice on this please check out “Skiing, Water Parks, Dating and Politics (Three Ways to Engage Your Online Community)

3. Drum-up community pride, share events, comment on local sports team successes, congratulate a local graduating class, promote fundraisers for families in need. All of these things get people excited and engaged on your site.

4. Don’t worry about negative comments, they are just part of the dialogue. Only delete comments that would not be allowed on the radio or TV. I learned this the hard way. I deleted a comment that was borderline, and it wound up being more of a problem than had I left it on. When the person reposted it a community member quickly refuted the negative comment. For more check out “To Delete, Or Not to Delete, That is the Question”

5. Encourage local decision makers to get online. I encouraged the mayor of Canton to join Facebook. Having her on the page made it more exciting for people to interact, people could answer the mayor’s questions or get feed back from the mayor.

6. Have fun with it. If you enjoy working on the page, then people will come.

Feel free to check out the site for ideas: Canton, New York. I hope you found this helpful, let me know if you have any questions.

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That’s an awesome post.

#1 is so key. It’s really hard because it takes work but is essential. I noticed our Facebook page got more active when I stopped auto-RSS in notes but actually shared only a few really good articles a day.

Stephen Peteritas

Agree with Steve #1 is why blogs and alot of sites die! I can set up my own rss’s easily if I want to see that stuff. I need original content!!!

Krispijn Beek

Great post and good tips. The fourth tip is the most daring, not to delete when someone is very critical can give some people the nerves within the organization. I’ve been involved in a crowdsourcing pilot at the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. One of the first discussion started at the community called for termination of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. We decided to wait untill the weekend before we would react or delete. Fortunately some other members strongly disagreed with the person who started the discussion, so in the end we didn’t have to react ourselves.

The link to your facebook page contains a small error:
should be:

Alex Showerman

Steve and Stephen, I am glad that you have had similar experiences and found this to be true!

Krsipijin, that is a fascinating example of leaving a comment up! I am curious as to how the crowd sourcing pilot worked!

Cyd, First thank you for pointing out the two errors. I felt as though your posts could have been pointed out privately, and made me feel a little foolish… A testament to just how hard #4 is to accomplish especially when your pride is on the line. This is an example to how true #4 is, I foolishly deleted your comment, and it brought more attention to the mistake. So for teaching me an important lesson and proving how true #4 is I thank you.