The next chief of Britain’s MI6 spy agency faces the possibility of government probe after a London newspaper revealed that his wife had posted personal family information – everything from family photographs to the location of their home -- on the social networking website, FaceBook. Carelessly publishing personal information -- which even the average 15-year old knows to omit -- exposes the man set to be the next real life version of “M” from the James Bond movie franchise to kidnapping and extortion.
As a political strategist, the incident made me consider some advice that I have given to political clients on the issue of FaceBook. How do your own candidates or representatives stack up against the following?
1) Get aboard already. Anyone who has attended any recent political event will notice that most of the people deeply engaged in political life are old. With few exceptions, this is not the demographic you, the politician, are going to reach on FaceBook. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on it. Because the reality is that these people are going to die relatively soon, and you don’t want your career to be buried along with them. The younger generation gets its information from the Internet, not from newspapers or television.
2) Don’t be a creep. By this, I mean that no politician should sign up for a FaceBook page and then proceed to just sit around idling in cyberspace. It’s creepy. It’s the equivalent of going to a bar and leering at the girls, rum and Coke in hand, from your perch in the corner. Inactivity gives the impression that you either don’t know what you’re doing, are hopelessly conceited and unreachable, or simply incapable of normal human interaction. People won’t think, “Oh, he’s just busy.” Rather, they’ll think, “What a self-centered jackass!” You’re not the King holding court – you’re a public servant who has elected to carve out a presence on one of the most democratizing tools the world has ever known. Voters don’t want to be lorded over - they want someone they can hang out with. That’s why candidates from Ronald Reagan to Sarah Palin and George Bush have resonated and connected with voters. Give some “gifts”, write on some “walls”. Wish some of your “friends”/voters a happy birthday – perhaps in a status line update. Being a normal, decent person goes a long way in politics.